Group wants Comelec execs cited in contempt over PCOS transfer
SAN PEDRO CITY—An antigraft group with members based in Laguna province is asking the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to cite in contempt Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. and five other poll commissioners in relation to the transfer of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to the new warehouse in Cabuyao City, Laguna.
Jonathan Siñel, one of the petitioners and head of a group called Movement against Graft and Abuse of Power, in an interview recently, said they feared the transfer of the 82,000 ballot-counting machines used in the past two elections could jeopardize the results of pending electoral protests.
There are 32 electoral protests pending at the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) while pending at the PET is the electoral protest filed by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas who lost his vice presidential bid to Jejomar Binay.
On Aug. 31, 2010, the PET issued a “precautionary protection order” to preserve the integrity of the 2010 ballots, which, Siñel argued, was violated by the Comelec when it moved the PCOS machines.
The PET is an independent body composed of Supreme Court justices that hears presidential and vice presidential electoral protests, among them the pending case filed by losing vice presidential candidate Roxas against Binay in the 2010 elections.
“Petitioners respectfully submit that the transfer was arbitrary, unlawful and contemptible as it would require proper authority and permission from the honorable Presidential Electoral Tribunal; the clandestine transfer, without public bidding and proper permission, of the PCOS machines along with its integral, peripheral and component Automatic Electoral System (AES) paraphernalia is in gross and culpable violation of the PET resolution,” read the 10-page petition filed in the PET on June 23.
Aside from Siñel, the petition was signed by Alicia Lazaga, Ricardo Bautista and Joel Abalos, with addresses in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna. Lazaga was a losing mayoral candidate in Sta. Rosa City and represented another group called Anti-Corruption League of Laguna Inc.
In a recent phone interview, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said they had yet to receive a copy of the complaint.
He, however, did not see any issue with regard to the transfer of the PCOS machines since the subject of the PET’s protection order “was not the physical machines but the records” of the 2010 and 2013 election results.
Records of the machines’ activities, including the tally of votes, were saved in the compact flash cards, which the Comelec has been keeping separately from the machines.
The Comelec used to lease a 10,000-square-meter warehouse owned by Power Serve Inc. before its contract expired in June 2013. The PCOS machines were transferred in February 2014 to a cheaper and smaller warehouse located right across from the former one.
The present warehouse is owned by JY & Son, the same company that owns a warehouse in Muntinlupa City where authorities recently found sacks of hoarded National Food Authority rice. Jimenez said the Comelec had nothing to do with the warehouse owner’s other businesses.