Groups ask SC to compel Comelec to make May 2022 polls preps transparent
MANILA, Philippines — Three organizations sought the help of the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to be transparent in its preparations for the approaching national and local elections on May 9.
“Comelec is not being transparent in all the automated election systems and is putting the public in the dark. This is a very dangerous precedent as Comelec itself is willfully hiding critical information about the entire automated election system,” reads the petition filed by the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC), Automated Election System Watch (AES WATCH), and Guardians Brotherhood, Inc. (GBI).
In their petition for mandamus, the groups asked the high court to direct the Comelec to allow the inspection of the ongoing ballot printing at the National Printing Office (NPO) as well as the examination of ballots that were printed in the absence of observers.
They also asked for the publication of deployment destinations of ballots printed in the absence of observers and disposition or destruction of the reported 5.2 million defective ballots.
Petitioners also said they want details on the preparation of the SD (secure digital) cards to be used in the vote-counting machines (VCMs) through Comelec-accredited observers in the Sta. Rosa, Laguna warehouse, including access to and examination of the SD cards that have already been configured and prepared without the presence of observers and allow the public to observe pre-logic and accuracy test (Pre-LAT) and other tests to be conducted.
They likewise said that the Comelec should disclose details on its preparation, testing, and deployment of the VCMs and all its parts, attachments, and tools through Comelec accredited observers, transmission diagram or data/communications network structure including the details of the transmission router server and/or the “Meet-Me Room,” and all devices and equipment that will be used to transmit election results.
Citing Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Election System Act, petitioners reminded Comelec that it has the duty to inform the public of its compliance with the minimum system capabilities required under the law.
They added that the law also allows political parties and candidates or their representatives, and citizens’ arm or their representatives to examine and test the equipment or device to be used in the voting and counting of ballots.
“While we appreciate the pronouncements of the new poll chair, Saidamen Pangarungan, and the two new commissioners that they are committed to transparency, the public remains apprehensive given the Comelec’s poor track record in past elections,” NPC President Paul Gutierrez told reporters.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Comelec chair Pangarungan assured that they are committed to full transparency.
“After I assumed as Chairman, I ordered the persons involved in the preparations to allow observers, watchers, and live streaming of all the activities without however compromising the security of accountable documents as well as the Comelec system,” he said.
The Comelec will again visit the NPO to conduct a random ballot check on Thursday, March 24.
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