THE Supreme Court junked the appeal of the Commission on Elections for more time to comment on the petition filed by former senator Richard Gordon seeking to compel the poll body to issue receipts for votes cast during the May 9 national and local elections.
During its en banc session Tuesday, the justices denied Comelec’s plea for an extension and gave the poll body only five more days to respond to Gordon’s motion.
Gordon’s petition had asked the Court to compel the Comelec to carry out the provisions of the Automated Election Law, which sets out a paper audit trail as among the minimum requirements for an automated election system, and as a key security feature for vote counting machines.
Gordon said the printed receipt allows every voter to confirm whether the machine cast the vote correctly, thereby ensuring the integrity of the elections.
The paper audit trail, he added, was a “critical and indispensable” security feature that the Comelec must implement.
The petition also said the Comelec must not be allowed to violate the law as it did in 2010 and 2013, when it failed to present the source code for the voting machines for review, and when it did away with another security feature, digital signatures.
In justifying the Comelec’s decision, Chairman Andres Bautista said printing the receipts would add from six to seven hours to the voting period. He also said voters could use the printed receipts to prove how they voted so that they could collect cash from vote buyers.
The Comelec on Tuesday said it has begun training for board of election inspectors on how to conduct a random manual audit to test the accuracy of the vote counting machines.
Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia said that they will conduct random manual audits on 715 clustered precincts after the national and local elections on May 9, 2016.
Guia said this was more than the 234 clustered precincts that were checked in 2013, but fewer than the 1,145 precincts audited in 2010.
Under the current setup, some legislative districts will have more clustered precincts set for audit than others, Guia said.
He said the Comelec decided to increase the number of clustered precincts checked to ensure that margin of error would be kept to a minimum.
“If there are more precincts, the margin of error will be smaller. We were told that having about 700 precincts for audit is already enough to represent the entire population of 92,000 precincts, as long as it is random,” Guia said.
The Comelec has accredited the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections to conduct the random manual audits in May.
Guia said they are looking forward to working with Namfrel considering their expertise in auditing proceedings.
“The Namfrel board has some of the top accountants in the country... we’ve been meeting with them for quite some time,” he said.
In the 2010 and 2013 elections, it was the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting that headed the Random Manual Audit Committee.
In the 2013 polls, the committee said the precinct count optical scan machines had a 99.97 percent accuracy rate, after finding only 237 variances in the 1,016,860 votes audited.
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