Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Election safeguards

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THE multi-sectoral election watchdog Reform Philippines Coalition (RPC) on Friday said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) violated the country’s election law that rendered the last two polls “illegal” and is bound to commit the same mistake again in the 2016 synchronized local and national elections.

The group, through spokesman Glenn Chong, demanded that the Comelec and election provider Smartmatic Corp. reinstall the four security features of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines that were removed during the 2010 and 2013 elections, which it claimed opened the gates for massive election fraud.

The security features were the ballot verification or ultra violet detectors, the source code review, the voter verified paper audit trail and the digital signature stipulated by Republic Act (RA) 939 or the Automated Elections Law and part and parcel of the contract when Comelec awarded the contract for the supply of 82,000 PCOS machines that were used during the 2010 and 2013 polls.

“Smartmatic promised that [these features will be restored] but [it was not done] during the 2010 and 2013 elections. Ang halalan ay labag sa batas [The elections were a violation of the law],” Chong said during the group’s vigil rally at Plaza Roma in front of the Palacio del Gobernador, which houses the Comelec’s offices.

Chong warned that unless the four security features were reinstalled, the 2016 elections would be a repeat of the 2010 and 2013 polls that he claimed were characterized by massive cheating.

According to the RPC spokesman, the Comelec and Smartmatic have repeatedly refused to address said public concerns despite clear and uncontroverted evidence they have presented and the filing of numerous complaints before the Supreme Court, the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Philippine National Police by different civil society groups and personalities over the course of five years since 2010.

Former Tarlac Rep. Jose Cojuangco Jr., a supporter of the RPC, said the Comelec and Smartmatic should return what they took away from the PCOS because it is the only way that the 2016 elections can be called honest and credible.

Cojuangco is elder brother of late president Corazon Aquino and uncle of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

Cojuangco ally Pastor Saycon said the coming elections would be inutile and useless if there were no guarantees that the outcome of the “PCOS manipulated system” will not be rectified.

“The law has prescribed that these four safety features are part and parcel of the contract, they must restore I[them] because they violated the law when they removed [them]. So they have to reinstall I[them] back, that’s all we are asking them to do,” Saycon added.

RPC is a broad coalition of Church members; lawyers; and active and retired military, police and government officials, among others. It counts among its supporters the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Philippine Constitutional Commmission, Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz, former military chief Hermogenes Esperon, former senator Francisco Tatad, former Comelec Commissioner Manolo Gorospe and retired admiral Damian Carlos.

The group earlier submitted a three-page demand letter to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista asking him to order the return of the security features as stipulated in Republic Act 939 but got no response.

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