Comelec defers action on Marcos audit request
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is deferring action on the request of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for his camp to be allowed to conduct an audit of the automated election system in light of the canvassing of votes in Congress and the cybercrime charges filed against it and Smartmatic.
Marcos was questioning the vice presidential count where he was trailing Camarines Rep. Leni Robredo.
Comelec Chair Andres Bautista on Wednesday said the decision was arrived at by the full commission following an extensive deliberation on Marcos’ demand.
But in the interest of transparency, Bautista said the Comelec was allowing a systems audit of the central and transparency servers used in the May 9 elections by a disinterested, nonpartisan and qualified IT experts.
“The unanimous vote is to defer action on the request of Marcos because of three reasons. However, transparency is important so we are open to a disinterested party to conduct the system audit,” Bautista said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.
He said the full commission considered three things when it deliberated on the matter.
First, all political parties, candidates and civil society organizations were given enough time to scrutinize the automated election system since October last year. “So, we cannot be accused of not opening our process to them,” Bautista said.
Second, the commissioners also expressed reservations to allow the Marcos camp to conduct a systems audit while Congress, as the national board of canvassers, was already in the process of counting the votes for President and Vice President.
Bautista reiterated that the Constitution had given Congress the sole power to proclaim the winners in the presidential and vice presidential races. “So, what are the effects if we allow an audit by a candidate?” he asked.
Third, the Marcos camp has also filed a new set of criminal cases against poll technology provider Smartmatic and Comelec officials for introducing a minor change in the data packet for a transparency server on the night of Election Day.
“What will happen if they find something? Will they use it as evidence against us?” Bautista said.
He said the Comelec en banc decided to shelve Marcos’ request until after the canvassing of votes by Congress and pending the criminal case filed against them in Manila.
“However, [for the sake] of transparency and accountability, the Comelec is open to a disinterested, nonpartisan and qualified IT practitioners, such as from the Department of Science and Technology or the Comelec Advisory Council,” he said.
Last week, Marcos filed a formal letter in the Comelec demanding that his camp be allowed to conduct a systems audit to determine the extent of the effect of the supposedly unsanctioned change in the data packet for a transparency server on the night of Election Day.
Marcos has been suggesting that because of the change in the script in the data packet, irregularities in the count of votes in the vice presidential race occurred.
In a privilege speech on Monday, Marcos raised anew the move to change a computer command. The change, his camp said, resulted in the flow of votes for him in the unofficial count by a Comelec citizens’ arm slowing down while those for Robredo accelerating.
Earlier, the Comelec and Smartmatic had explained that the minor change in the script only involved substituting “?” that appeared in the names of certain candidates with “ñ” and that this did not affect the counting of the votes.
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