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‘Massive cheating’

PRESIDENTIAL candidate Senator Grace Poe warned that massive cheating could take place if the Commission on Elections postpones the  May 9  elections or returns to manual voting.

“I am scared that if we go manual or if we defer the elections, there might be another [Hello] Garci,” Poe said, referring to a scandal in which former President Gloria Arroyo was caught on tape talking to then Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, triggering accusations of widespread rigging in the 2004 elections in which Poe’s father, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., lost to Arroyo in the presidential race.

Told the Comelec had already set a date in case the elections are postponed, she blurted out: “That’s stupidity!”

Poe said the Comelec still had enough time to comply with the Supreme Court order that they activate the printing of receipts on the vote counting machines.

Senator Grace Poe

She recalled in the automated election in 2010, the Comelec was able to reconfigure the compact flash or CF cards used by the machines in only a week.

“They can still do many things during the allotted time,” she said.

A poll watchdog  on Tuesday  said a postponement of elections would only benefit incumbent officials running for national and local positions, and warned that they might use government resources to further their electoral goals.

Kontra Daya secretary-general Renato Reyes urged the Comelec to hold the elections on  May 9  as scheduled and as required by law.

On Tuesday, Kontra Daya staged a protest in front of the Comelec office in Intramuros to denounce warnings by the Comelec’s technology provider, Smartmatic, that there could be a failure of elections.

“We reject threats of a failure of elections or proposals to delay the holding of the elections,” Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao said.

He also rejected the Comelec’s stated options.

“The public must not be made to choose between a flawed automated system and the prospect of the polls being delayed,” Arao added.

The poll watchdog also urged the Comelec not just to activate the voter’s receipt feature of the vote counting machine but also create necessary safeguards.

Arao said the receipts were important because they could show how accurate the vote result was.

“The Comelec is banking on so many reasons to oppose the printing of receipts, it forgets the most fundamental concern of the voters, to ensure that votes are properly recorded and counted. The foreign-controlled automated election system sold to us by Smartmatic does not guarantee that our votes will be properly recorded and counted,” Arao said.

The refusal to print receipts would cause people to doubt the outcome of the elections, he said.

“Why refuse safeguards? Why reject measures for transparency? The Comelec’s actions points to something sinister, by its refusal to implement safeguards, Comelec itself is the one undermining the credibility of the election results,” Arao said.

Senatorial candidate and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez  on Tuesday  joined calls from various sectors for the Comelec to “end its foolishness” and to ensure that the  May 9  polls push through as scheduled, and that they are clean, honest and peaceful.

It is the duty of the Comelec to obey the Supreme Court and uphold the law, Romualdez said.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon accused the Comelec of floating the possibility of a postponement to enable the ruling Liberal Party and its candidates to gain an advantage.

“Not only is it unconstitutional to move the elections—it will also provide a huge advantage for [President Benigno] Aquino [III} and his party. As it is, the ruling Liberal Party already has unlimited control over government instrumentalities and public funds, giving them a huge advantage over their opponents,” Ridon said.

“Already, reports of President Aquino’s party mates using public funds and projects to bolster their party’s candidates are flooding the news. Postponing the elections would mean additional time for the Aquino administration to exploit government funds for their own partisan interests,” Ridon added.

Ridon noted several reports on how the Liberal Party uses bottom-up budgeting projects, the conditional cash transfer program, and even PhilHealth, in their campaigns.

“The Aquino administration is using the government’s coffers as their own election war chest. Who knows how many billions more will be funneled to Mar Roxas’ campaign if the elections will be moved to June,” Ridon said.

Ridon also slammed the Comelec for presenting “doomsday scenarios” to the nation instead of “addressing the technical requirements ordered by the Supreme Court with due diligence.”

In a meeting with the country’s major political parties  Monday, the Comelec said there were two possible scenarios: one is to postpone the elections by three weeks, and the other option is to push through on  May 9  without any assurance on the poll’s quality and credibility.

“We firmly oppose both scenarios. It is Comelec’s constitutional duty to hold the polls on the second  Monday  of May—elections that are credible and reliable,” Ridon said.

“What Comelec needs to do is to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision and exercise due diligence in addressing the problems of the automated election system. We cannot accept anything less,” Ridon added.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the Comelec’s motion for reconsideration on its order to issue voter receipts, Court spokesman Theodore Te said.

The Philippine Constitution Association  said its members would meet on  March 22  to discuss the implications of two election-related Supreme Court rulings.

Romualdez, Philconsa president, said there was a need for Philconsa to discuss and take a stand on the two rulings—the first finding that Poe was qualified to run for president, and the second ordering the Comelec to issue printed receipts to voters.

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