Comelec returns 1,000 VCMs to Smartmatic
SAN PEDRO CITY—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday began returning more than 1,000 vote-counting machines (VCM) to its supplier despite opposition from former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. whose poll protest was based partly on allegations that the election results had been manipulated with the use of VCMs.
In an urgent manifestation and motion on Oct. 21, Marcos asked the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to “prohibit the poll body from releasing the subject VCMs” after the Comelec informed Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno it plans to return the machines to Smartmatic-TIM.
The Marcos camp also asked the PET to determine whether these VCMs were used in the vice presidential race, which the former senator lost by about 260,000 votes to Leni Robredo, the Liberal Party candidate.
On June 29, Marcos filed his electoral protest and asked the PET to stop Robredo’s inauguration. He said votes that were counted for Robredo were fraudulent, contesting the results in 39,221 clustered precincts in 25 provinces and five cities.
He alleged that Smartmatic introduced a new hash code (or a new script/program) into the transparency server, which he said had triggered unauthorized changes in the vote count.
In August, the PET issued a precautionary protective order (PPO) directing the Comelec to preserve all election materials and paraphernalia pending the resolution of the proceedings.
Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim has informed Sereno, who heads the PET, that the machines they planned to return “were not actually deployed and/or used during said elections [and therefore were] not within the scope of the [PPO].”
He said these machines had been put on standby as replacement VCMs for those that break down on election day.
Inspection and hand over
By Wednesday noon, the poll body had finished inspecting at the Comelec warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, about 500 of 1,356 VCMs it was to return to Smartmatic, according to Robredo’s lawyer, Bernadette Sardillo. She said the inspection and hand over will continue on Thursday if the process isn’t finished on Wednesday.
The Marcos camp said in a statement it is “standing its ground” against the release of the VCMs without approval of the Supreme Court sitting as the PET. It did not send an observer to the Comelec warehouse.
Marcos’ lawyer, Jose Amor Amorado, in a text message to the Inquirer, said the PET has scheduled a deliberation on their motion on Nov. 8. “By that alone, Comelec should stay the release of the machines,” he said.
Sardillo said about 40 SD (secure digital) cards retrieved from the machines held either intact or corrupted data. She said the memory cards had been set aside and she had asked the Comelec to decrypt them to determine what they contained./rga
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