A SENATORIAL candidate on Monday asked the Supreme Court to compel the Commission on Elections to activate a paper audit for the vote-counting machines that will be used in the May elections, as a new survey showed that 39 percent of Filipinos expect cheating to take place at the polls.
In his petition, former senator Richard Gordon, who is seeking a Senate seat this year, said the Comelec’s decision to scrap the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail disregarded the required security features set out under the Automated Elections System Law, which he wrote.
The seven Comelec commissioners earlier decided to scrap the VVPAT because it could be used as a tool for vote buying and would also extend the voting period by seven hours.
Gordon filed his petition as a new Pulse Asia survey showed that only about half of Filipinos (49 percent) expect the May elections to be clean because the counting of votes is automated. On this question, 36 percent said they were undecided, while 15 percent said automation would not make the elections credible.
On a separate question, a sizable plurality (39 percent) said they expect cheating to take place. Only 29 percent said they believed no cheating would take place, while 32 percent were unsure.
Among those expecting cheating to occur, a sizable majority (65 percent) said vote-buying is most likely to happen.
This was the predominant view in all geographic areas and socio-economic classes.
The second most often mentioned form of cheating was tampering with the precinct count optical scan machines (37 percent).
Other forms of cheating mentioned were the presence of flying voters, attempts to change the actual vote count, and the replacement of ballots inserted into the PCOS machines.
Fewer respondents mentioned physical threats or the stealing of PCOS machines.
The Pulse Asia survey also asked respondents if they would vote for politicians who already have relatives in office.
About a third (32 percent) said they would and a third (34 percent) said they wouldn’t. The rest were undecided.
Also on Monday, the Comelec asked IT expert Jim Battung to specify which algorithm in the automated election system was vulnerable to hacking.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said they never claimed that the vote-counting machines could not be hacked.
“In fact, one of the things that we always say is that if anyone tells you that they have a system that is unhackable, they are either incompetent or lying, so we’ve never said that,” he said.
Battung, a telecommunication engineer who served as Transportation and Communications undersecretary during the Ramos administration, said the poll body should be concerned with the VCM’s algorithms rather than their source code.
Jimenez said Battung should be more specific so that the Comelec could look into the matter.
In his petition, Gordon said the Comelec was a “recidivist” in violating the Automated Elections System Law.
“The last two automated elections in the country have not been credible because of its failure to implement the safeguards such as presenting the source code for review, the use of digital signatures was disabled and the random manual audit was announced. Because of this continued failure, the integrity of the elections has not been restored as the automated elections law intended. This has got to stop,” Gordon said.
Gordon said Congress had the constitutional duty to protect the sanctity of the ballot, which is why he ensured that safeguards were incorporated into the automated election law.
“Several safeguards were put in place to ensure the sanctity of the ballot. Among these safeguards was the VVPAT. A voter verified paper audit trail consists of physical paper records of voter ballots as voters have cast them on an electronic voting system. The voter-verified part refers to the fact that the voter is given the opportunity to verify that the choices indicated on the paper record correspond to the choices that the voter has made in casting the ballot,” he said.
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