MANILA, Philippines–Liberal Party standard bearers Senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Mar Roxas are worried that the first automated elections in May would end up in total failure due to the removal of safeguards in ballots and faulty implementation of several features of the automated election system (AES).
In a letter to Commission on Elections chairman Jose Melo, Aquino and Roxas expressed concerns that the poll body is running out of time to fully ensure the success of the automated elections and might need to resort to manual counting.
“The unrealistic and abbreviated timeline observed by the Comelec, as well as the consequent alarming delays in the production of election paraphernalia, create a possibility for the occurrence of a failure of elections,” they said in the letter.
“Further, we are particularly disturbed by the fact that the Commission and Smartmatic-TIM have disabled or entirely removed crucial safeguards in the various components of the AES,” they added.
The removal of crucial safeguards, which are required under the law, they said, would present an opportunity for massive electoral fraud by certain sectors that are desperate to hold on to power beyond their constitutional mandate.
LP’s general campaign manager, Florencio Abad, said Aquino and Roxas and the entire leadership of LP were alarmed by the “overwhelming evidence that there is a grand conspiracy to make the elections fail and get someone in power now to stay beyond June 30.”
Aquino and Roxas, Abad said, cited eight reasons to justify their claim of a possible failure in the implementation of automated poll system.
First, the poll body allegedly prevented a timely and genuine review of the source code by political parties and other interested stakeholders;
Second, the lack of means to verify ultra-violet marks in the official ballots.
During the site visit of candidates to the National Printing Office (NPO) on March 11, the LP said, the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM confirmed that the built-in capability of the PCOS machines to read and verify the hidden ultra-violet security mark on the official ballot have been disabled.
Third, the LP said the parallel random manual audit as required under the law should be undertaken by an independent auditor prior to the electronic transmission of election results and proclamation.
Fourth, the refusal to accredit NAMFREL-CBCP-NASSA as citizens’ poll watchdog group.
Fifth, the “unfair ballot design,” that allegedly favored Senator Manny Villar, Aquino’s closest rival in the presidential race.
Sixth, the lack of contingency/back-up plans in case of a systems breakdown or any such eventuality that would result in the delay, obstruction or non-performance of the process.
“Considering the lack of safeguards, delays, tight schedules and other problems in the implementation of the automated elections, it is imperative for the Comelec to prepare for manual elections as a contingency or back-up measure,” said the LP.
Seventh, the disqualification of LP candidates in the past few months.
The LP noted a spate of disqualifications, specifically targeting their candidates like Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio, Isabela Gov.Grace Padaca and popular actor Richard Gomez.
And eight, the pending resolution of the poll body to the petition of Villar’s Nacionalista Party against the LP’s status of being the dominant minority party.