By Joel M Sy Egco
At least 33 pending electoral protests, including that of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas against Vice President Jejomar Binay, have been put in jeopardy after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) illegally transferred 90,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to a warehouse that lacked the required configuration facilities.
Election watchdog Movement Against Graft and Abuse of Power (Magap) said the poll protests can no longer be resolved because the PCOS machines used in the previous elections may have already been “tampered” and the machines’ integrity compromised.
The group has called for a full Congressional inquiry into the matter.
In a statement, Magap spokesman Jonas Siniel also alleged that Comelec violated Section 9 of the Batas Pambansa 883 when it secretly transferred the 90,000 PCOS machines to an undisclosed warehouse without configuration facilities.
He added that the move was a direct insult to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
“Aside from it, Comelec also violated rules of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), as there are still 32 ongoing protests by congressional candidates in the 2013 polls — aside from blatant defiance to the procurement law or RA 9184 when it transferred the 90,000 PCOS machines to a small undisclosed warehouse, without open and public bidding,” Siniel claimed.
The group spokesman further alleged that the poll body violated Congress’ requirement in its approved legislated special supplemental budget of P400mn, for lease and warehousing which mandates that the voting machines should be stored in a warehouse with configuration facilities.
To support the group’s claim, Siniel has asked the Commission on Audit (COA) to fully audit the 90,000 PCOS machines to preserve their poll-worthiness and to stop possible poll fraud in the 2016 presidential, senatorial and local elections.
The group said the COA’s urgent action can pre-empt the “merchandising of the 2016 presidential, senatorial, and local elections by crooks believed operating inside the Comelec on large-scale missions to rig aforesaid polls in favour of equally crooked political clients running in the May 2016 polls.”
“We have great faith in COA that it can do the job, which is what the 93mn Filipinos hope for and benefit from—especially once the 2016 poll results are rendered genuine, convincing and all poll processes are transparent and has integrity,” the statement said.
Siniel said they expected the COA to protect the interests of Filipino voters by stopping what he believed were the Comelec’s sinister plans.
Besides the alleged “illegal” transfer of the PCOS machines, the group previously slammed the poll body for its plan to acquire P60bn worth of new voting machines.
The group said this “totally mocks many relevant laws and regulations causing extreme prejudice to the interests of Filipinos and the state as a whole.”
“We should not allow Comelec to come out with untruthful public statements that totally insult our intelligence as by law they are public servants and obliged to observe the all-time-honoured principle that a public office is a public trust,” Siniel said.
Besides that of Roxas which remains with the PET, protests pending at HRET include many other cases.
Siniel said the 90,000 PCOS machines must be accounted for unit by unit, including all its peripherals, compact flash cards and other features so they can be maintained, repaired and stored in a warehouse with complete memory configuration facilities and which bears an ISO Certification for PCOS and election equipment repair and maintenance.
“If Comelec won’t comply with proper standards in PCOS maintenance and warehousing, the 2016 polls will just be another hocus pocus elections—to the extreme prejudice of the 50mn electorate and to every Filipino. We must stop some crooks in Comelec from their sinister plans this time to set us free from their crookedness and finally achieve a fraud-free presidential, senatorial, and local polls in May 2016,” he said.
Siniel also called on other poll watchdogs to monitor the current hiring of PCOS technicians by Smartmatic at its office at The Fort.
“For whatever intent—only Smartmatic knows—Comelec should make sure it won’t cater to some creepy deals or face national outrage which is now silently brewing,” he said, adding that the owner of the PCOS machines are no longer the Comelec but the Filipino people.
The group reiterated the need for a full Congressional inquiry.
Siniel suggested that state auditors should make a thorough accounting of PCOS machines “so that crooks operating in Comelec will be unmasked in a Congressional probe and election sabotage cases (without bail) can be filed against them with the Ombudsman