It’s as simple as that.
Former Senator Richard Gordon who is running again for the Senate slammed officials of the Commission on Elections for painting a doomsday scenario if they were to comply with the Supreme Court decision to have the election machines on May 9 issue receipts of the voter’s vote.
He said postponing the May 9 elections is out of the question. “The Comelec is painting a doomsday scenario so that we will be afraid. It will not happen. What they should paint is they can do it. If they do not want to do it, stop giving excuses, leave your job and give it to somebody who can do the job,” said the principal author of the Election Computerization law and one of the petitioners who asked the High Court to compel the election body to follow the law.
In a vote of 14-0, the High Court last March 8 ordered the Comelec to “enable the vote verification feature of the vote-counting machines which prints the voter’s choices…”
Last Friday, March 11, the Comelec filed with the SC, through Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, a motion for reconsideration saying “There is a strong likelihood that the May 2016 elections will fail if the voting receipt feature is enabled by the Comelec at this very late stage of the project.”
Talking with media in Lucena, while on a campaign trail with Partido Galing at Puso led by Presidential Candidate Grace Poe and Vice Presidential Candidate Chiz Escudero, Gordon insinuated that the election officials are up into something not good. He said the election body had six years to do it. “They can still do it. They don’t want to do it because may maitim na balak.”
He said they would rather give in to their “incompetence and laziness.”
He said he can’t buy Comelec’s line that it will further delay the preparation for the May 9 elections as they would have to reconfigure more than 90,000 machines and re-train the hundreds of thousands of Board of Election Inspectors.
He said the reconfiguratioin is just a switch. “You just activate and put it in all the machihes. You can do it in less than a week. I should know. Ako ang gumawa ng batas na yan,” he said.
The SC noted that at the joint congressional oversight committee hearing on Automated Elections last February, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista gave its reasons for refusing to issue paper receipts. “First, politicians can use the receipts in vote buying… second, it may increase voting time to five to seven hours in election precincts.”
It doesn’t make sense for the election body to sacrifice the integrity and credibility of the election for something that they just fear might happen, which vote is buying. Gordon said it’s “baseless and speculative.”
Gordon said “The law is there. Just implement the law.”
The law (specifically Republic Act No. 8436, Section 6(e), (f), and (n), (e) as amended by Republic Act No. 9369) requires that there should be a Provision for voter verified paper audit trail; System auditability which provides supporting documentation for verifying the correctness of reported election results; Provide the voter a system of verification to find out whether or not the machine has registered his choice.
The danger of excusing Comelec not to follow the law for reasons of their own making is that it will set a precedent and who knows, what more they would ask not to implement next time?
Gordon said if the Comelec officials cannot follow the law, they can be impeached. They can be charged for misfeasance and dereliction of duty.
He, however, said it’s difficult because you would need two-thirds vote of the House of Representatives.
The Supreme Court said: “The credibility of the results of any election depends, to a large extent, on the confidence of each voter that his or her individual choices have actually been counted. It is in that local precinct after the voter casts his or her ballot that this confidence starts. It is there where it will be possible for the voter to believe that his or her participation as sovereign truly counts.”