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Gordon to SC: Compel Comelec to issue vote receipts

/ 06:00 PM February 22, 2016

FORMER Senator Richard Gordon on Monday asked the Supreme Court to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to issue receipts to voters after casting their votes in the May 9 polls.

In his 24-page petition for mandamus, Gordon who is also running for the Senate and the Bagumbayan-VNP Movement Inc., said Comelec should abide by what is stated under Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Election Law.

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Under Section 7 (e) of RA 9369, states that the Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail or VVPAT is one of the minimum systems capabilities of the automated election system and a major security feature of the vote counting machine.

However, Comelec has decided against using the VVPAT because it could be used as a tool for vote-buying and would also extend the voting period by seven hours.

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Gordon explained that VVPAT allows every voter to confirm whether or not the machine cast the vote correctly based on the choice of the voter, thereby ensuring the integrity of the elections.

“Several safeguards were put in place to ensure the sanctity of the ballot. Among these safeguards was the VVPAT. A voter verified paper audit trail consists of physical paper records of voter ballots as voters have cast them on an electronic voting system.  The voter-verified part refers to the fact that the voter is given the opportunity to verify that the choices indicated on the paper record correspond to the choices that the voter has made in casting the ballot,” Gordon said in his petition.

He said that VVPAT is a “critical and indispensable” security feature of the automated voting machine, one that the Comelec must implement.

“It serves as a deterrent against election fraud and provides a means to audit stored electronic results,” the former lawmaker and principal author of RA 9369 said.

Gordon further pointed out that Sections 6(e), (f) and (n) of the said law is clear and unequivocal in mandating the use of the VVPAT and that it is not up to the Comelec whether or not to implement it.

He further said that it is a time-honored principle under statutory construction that a statute must be interpreted in its plain and concise meaning.

“The above readily shows that Congress, in making use of the word “minimum” in the title of the aforesaid section, gave the Respondent no choice but to adopt an automated elections system that includes the VVPAT as one of the security features. Respondent’s speculative yet baseless fear of vote buying in case of the implementation of the VVPAT cannot be used as a valid excuse to disregard the clear language and mandate of the law. There is greater risk of cheating on a mass scale if the VVPAT were not implemented because digital cheating would be difficult to detect by those uninitiated in the world of information technology, than cheating by isolated cases of vote buying,” he argued.

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Thus, to prevent a travesty of the May 9 polls through flagrant and unconscionable violations of the automated election laws, Gordon said it is imperative for the SC to issue a writ of mandamus and order the Comelec to include the VVPAT feature.

“The right to suffrage is a powerful tool placed in the hands of every Filipino giving them the ability to change the course of our country’s future. Therefore, it is essential that the sanctity and credibility of our election system be continuously protected from threats putting its results in question. In order for the system to be protected, it is essential that implementation of various security systems must be complied with,” he explained.

Gordon said the Comelec must not be allowed to violate the law as it has done so in the 2010 and 2013 elections, adding that this is one of the reasons why there are those who questioned the credibility of the automated election system due to the failure of the poll body to implement the safeguards such as presenting the source code for review and disabling the use of digital signatures.

“With the May 9, elections fast approaching, petitioners are witnessing anew the callousness and refusal of the respondent to comply with the laws on automated elections. Petitioners strongly believe that unless respondent is ordered by this Honorable Court to fulfill its mandatory duty under the said laws, legal violations would be committed and the credibility of the May 9 elections would be jeopardized and compromised, as were the 2010 and 2013 elections,” the petition said.

Earlier, the Comelec voted 7-0 “not to enable the feature of printing a receipt’’ when an elector has cast his automated vote.

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TAGS: Elections 2016, Richard Gordon, VotePh2016, Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail
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