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SC asked to check if Comelec used intel funds to spy on poll watchdog

The Automated Election System (AES) Watch will file for a writ of habeas data in the Supreme Court next week to determine if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is spying on it.

Evita Jimenez, an AES Watch leader, said her group would also ask the Supreme Court to compel the Comelec to divulge how it spent P30 million in intelligence funds and if the money was spent to spy on the election watchdog’s critics.

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“We will try to find out what … they have done… how they spent the so-called P30 million intelligence fund,” Jimenez said in an interview.

“Who were they after? Is it true that they were after AES Watch because they have been mentioning AES Watch, IT experts and watchdogs who ‘are out to sabotage the elections,’” she added.

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The writ

The Supreme Court instituted the writ of habeas data in January 2008 as “a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party.”

The process does not allow respondents to issue a general denial of the allegations in the petition, and requires them to state their lawful defense, disclose the information they gathered and the purpose of the collection, the steps they took to ensure the security and confidentiality of the information, and the currency and accuracy of the data.

“When a respondent invokes such lawful defenses as national security or privileged communication, a judge may conduct a hearing in his chambers, which is not open to the public, and with precautions to ensure their secrecy. But the respondent is required to disclose the information to the court,” the Supreme Court said.

Explain saboteur label

Jimenez said AES Watch wanted the Comelec to explain if it considered the group and the election watchdog’s other critics electoral saboteurs.

She said Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. had labeled Comelec critics as saboteurs and his statement had a “chilling effect” on information technology experts who were trying to find out if there was fraud in the May 13 automated elections.

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“We don’t want to mention their names because they already appealed to us. They will continue studying this, but… the Comelec already said they are out to unmask (the alleged saboteurs),” Jimenez said.

‘We did not’

Asked for comment, Brillantes vehemently denied that the Comelec investigated AES Watch, but criticized the group for “going into things it does not know.”

“I did not have them investigated. I can guarantee and I can swear to everybody that I did not have the AES investigated,” Brillantes said.

“They are the ones who are asking to be investigated because they keep on blabbering,” he added.

Brillantes said Comelec intelligence funds are approved by Malacañang and reviewed by the Commission on Audit.

“Go ahead, let them investigate. They should also investigate Malacañang and everyone. It gave (the funds) and approved it,” he said.

“They are now going into intelligence funds. I thought they were just about elections? Let them file. AES is good at that. They get into everything… things they do not understand,” he said.

Where the money went

Brillantes said the Comelec used the money for “intelligence, surveillance, for something confidential, matters that involve security, public interest.”

He said the Comelec sometimes hired outsiders to do the sleuthing for it.

“Yes, we take in assets. We have to hire assets. We use (the money) for safe houses, and we don’t say where these are,”

Brillantes said.

“That AES and (the others) are causing trouble. Maybe they have no other things to do,” he said.

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TAGS: Automated Election System, Comelec, Commission on Elections, Intel Funds, Poll Watchdog, Supreme Court
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