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Faith coalition: How did Comelec get away with leaving out poll safety features?

/ 02:14 PM February 10, 2016
broderick pabillo

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo with other leaders of the FAITH.e coalition. ARIES JOSEPH HEGINA/INQUIRER.net

Leaders representing four religious sectors gathered on Wednesday to form a coalition asking the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to fully implement Republic Act 9369 or the Election Automation Law which they believe would ensure the conduct of “honest and credible elections.”

At a press conference in Quezon City, the coalition, which goes by the name FAITH.e (Fairness, Accuracy, Integrity, Transparency, and Honesty in Elections), asked the Comelec to restore the “security features” mandated in RA 9369 which were supposedly not implemented in the 2010 and 2013 automated polls.

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“Ang ating kahilingan ngayon sa current administration (ng Comelec) na (sana) ay maging legacy nito ang mga safety features that [are] mandated by the law. Wala po kaming hinihinging bago. Ang hinihiling po namin ay kung ano ang nasa Saligang Batas,” Votenet Philippines Chair and World Evangelical Alliance Bishop Efraim Tendero said.

(Our plea to the current Comelec administration is to make it their legacy to [implement] the safety features that are mandated by the law. We do not wish for any change. What we ask for is what is already in the Constitution.)

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The coalition, which is composed of leaders from the Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, and Muslim church and religious groups, laid out the five security features that they want the poll body to implement. These are:

  1. Voter-verifiable paper audit trail;
  2. Implementation of a truly-random manual audit after the elections;
  3. Source code review that will allow more interested parties to participate;
  4. Use of digital signatures of teachers or Board of Election Inspectors; and
  5. Ballot verification through the use of ultraviolet detectors to check fake ballots.

READ: CBCP issues guidelines to Catholic voters ahead of 2016 polls

On his part, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo slammed the Comelec for holding the past two automated elections sans the security features mandated in RA 9369.

“Malaking tanong sa amin: kapag hindi mo ba tinupad ang batas, wala ka bang pananagutan? Dalawang eleksyon na, hindi mo pa rin sinunod ang batas, wala bang pananagutan yun? Kung ang citizen nga kapag hindi sumusunod ng batas ay hinuhuli, paano pa ang institusyon?” Pabillo said.

(A big question to us: if you fail to implement the law, won’t you be liable? It has been two elections, and you still have not enforced the law, is there no liability in that? Citizens are held liable for violating the law, what more the institution?)

The Manila bishop emphasized the need of placing the security features on the vote counting machines which will be used so as to maintain the transparency and credibility of the upcoming elections.

“This is a moral issue na dapat lahat ng boto ay bilangin at igalang. Nakita namin na may kakulangan sa transparency kasi itong mga safeguards ay nakalagay diyan to bring about a transparent and credible election,” he said.

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(This is a moral issue, all votes must be counted and honored. We have seen that there is a lack transparency because these safeguards are placed to bring about a transparent and credible election.)

Tendero said that the group does not want to lock horns with Comelec.

“Hindi namin kinakalaban ang Comelec. Kami ay nandito para maging katuwang ng Comelec at patuloy na magpaalala sa kanila na gampanan ang kanilang tungkulin ayon sa nasasaad sa Saligang Batas,” he said.

(We are not antagonizing the Comelec. We are here to be allies of Comelec and to remind them to continue fulfilling their duties based on the provisions of the Constitution.)

The group also clarified that they are concerned primarily with the holding of credible elections and will not endorse or support any candidate.

Last January, the Comelec demonstrated the security features of the new vote-counting machines which will be used in May.

The features include a secured source code, an ultraviolet lamp to verify ballots, digital signatures from the BEI and the voter verification paper audit trail (VVPAT).

However, the poll body expressed apprehension on activating the VVPAT because it might be used by voters to sell their votes.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista has vowed to implement all security features sans the VVPAT.

Some of the groups represented under the FAITH.e coalition include the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, Lighthouse Bible Baptist Church and Ministries, Firebrand Ministries, and Philippine Computer Society. CDG

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TAGS: Comelec, Commission on Elections, Election Automation Law, Elections 2016, religious
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