A group of bishops, former military and police officials and IT experts is poised to file a petition asking the Supreme Court to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to use the voter verification paper audit trail (VVPAT), one of the four minimum security requirements mandated by law, in the May 9 elections.
The Reform Philippines Coalition on Wednesday said it will file a petition for mandamus at the High Court on the first week of March.
The group is led by seven bishops from various denominations -- former Ligayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Rey Santillan, Bernie Malitao, Boner Andaya, Larry Celda, Butch Belgica and Noel Pantoja and IT experts Glenn Chong, Toti Casiño and Greco Belgica.
It is supported by former Bukidnon congressman Al Lopez and two former Philippine National Police chiefs—Roberto Lastimosa and Hermogenes Esperon—and former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency head Dioniso Santiago, also a former Armed Forces chief of staff.
The group plans to launch a mass protest to be attended by members of their churches, including the Catholic Church.
“We are asking the Comelec to restore the VVPAT as this is the only way we are assured that our votes are counted. It will also act as our way of verifying if the canvassing is correct,” said Belgica, who is seeking a Senate seat under the tandem of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.
He added that the VVPAT is important because it will be used for random audit.
Lopez said Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista should resign if the commission will insist on not implementing the paper audit trail.
Sen. Richard Gordon, who authored the Automated Election System (AES) Law, is also planning to file a suit against the Comelec because of its decision to ditch the use of the VVPAT.
He warned that Comelec officials could be impeached because of their action.
“I already called my lawyers and told them to look at the issue because we might have to go to court all over again because this is a violation of the law,” Gordon said, pointing out that it is better to postpone the elections for several days rather than go through with them and cheat voters.
“I think there is something going on in the Comelec and we must stop it while there is still time,” said Gordon, the author of Republic Act (RA) 9369 or the Amended Automated Elections Law.
“All of them can be impeached for violation of the law, at the very least ignorance of the law,” added the current Philippine Red Cross chief, a senatorial candidate of the Partido Galing at Puso and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
He said there is no reason why the Comelec would deny the voters the right to know if their votes were accurately counted by the vote counting machines.
The deactivation of the VVPAT system, he noted, is a big game changer especially when many candidates are overspending in their campaign.
The poll body en banc unanimously junked VVPAT, saying it will be used for vote-buying and it will delay the voting process.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has urged the Comelec to activate the security feature to ensure the integrity of the coming electoral exercise.