Rider provision relaxing safeguard rules on automated polls raise hackles of senators
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate would not allow any alleged attempt to allow the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to waive safeguards in the procurement of equipment and materials to be used for automated elections, some senators said Monday.
This, after an election lawyer flagged an alleged bid by “someone at the Senate” to insert a provision in the General Appropriations Bill containing the 2021 national budget giving Comelec authority to disregard all the requirements and safeguards in Section 12 of the Automated Election Law.
In a message to reporters, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he already alerted Senate finance committee chair Senator Sonny Angara that such a provision in the spending bill “could be unconstitutional as a rider, since it had nothing to do with the budget.”
“Moreover, if true, it will amend the Procurement Law, which cannot be amended by inserting that clause in the General Appropriations Act. Sen[ator] Angara committed that he will not allow the insertion of that provision,” Drilon added.
“I do not know if that provision was in the Senate version which we approved. If it is there, I do not know who authored that amendment,” he also said.
Angara, in a separate message, said he is already looking into the matter.
“[Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s] directive is clear on that matter not to allow any such attempt,” he said.
The Senate already passed on third and final reading the 2021 General Appropriations Bill.
The Senate and the House of Representatives are set to convene in a bicameral conference committee on Tuesday to reconcile their versions of the budget bill.
Senator Leila de Lima also opposed the alleged bid to insert such a provision in the budget bill and urged her colleagues to exercise vigilance during the bicam “against any dangerous amendments like this.”
“Anyone who seeks to steal our elections is an enemy to our people and our democracy. They should be treated as such,” she said in a dispatch from Camp Crame, where she is currently detained.
She stressed that there is no excuse for Comelec not to undergo regular procurement.
“If they cannot do their job, they have no business running a most crucial institution. They better just resign. Any attempts at negotiated procurement for election equipment can only be seen as negotiating the elections itself,” she said.
“Our elections are sacrosanct to our democracy. And [Comelec] should resist any attempts by anyone to undermine its credibility, [no matter who appointed them],” she added.
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