STA. ROSA, Laguna—The Commission on Elections said Wednesday that it is considering postponing the national and local polls set for May 9 after the Supreme Court ordered it to issue printed receipts to voters.
In a press conference, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista called the Supreme Court decision “impractical” and said that with only 61 days before the elections, there might not be enough time to change their preparations for the polls.
“For me, if we need to postpone the elections, let’s postpone them,” Bautista said in Filipino, during an interview over radio dzBB.
A postponement, however, requires congressional approval, he said.
“The Supreme Court decision will affect our timeline, and this morning, this is what we will talk about and see if we need to recommend [to Congress] to postpone our elections, he said.
On Wednesday morning, Comelec officials met in a closed-door emergency meeting with the agency’s IT service provider, Smartmatic-Total Information Management, in the agency’s Sta. Rosa, Laguna warehouse.
In a press briefing, Bautista confirmed that they discussed a possible postponement.
They also decided the Comelec would immediately file a motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court.
“We were able to talk to Solicitor General Florin Hilbay and we have decided to file a motion for reconsideration [questioning the decision of the SC] as soon as possible,” Bautista said.
He said the Comelec wanted to demonstrate to the 15 justices of the Supreme Court how the voting machines work and why activating their ability to print receipts was impractical.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Comelec to activate the vote verification feature in response to a petition filed by former senator Richard Gordon, who argued that the receipts were a crucial security feature and should not be removed, as the Comelec planned to do.
The Court voted unanimously, 14-0, to grant Gordon’s petition.
But Bautista said this would certainly cause the poll body problems because activating the feature would entail practical, technical and operational changes in their preparations.
He said activating the feature would mean the Comelec must configure 92,500 SD cards of the vote counting machines, retrain and train more than 277,000 teachers who volunteered to serve as board of election inspectors.
“We were almost halfway done, and now it looks like we might have to go back and retrain those we’ve already certified,” Bautista said.
He added that the order would also affect overseas absentee voting.
Gregorio Larrazabal, a former Comelec commissioner who served during the first automated election in 2010, urged the poll body not to consider a postponement.
“I think postponing the elections should not even be discussed now. People should focus on making sure we have elections on the date set by the Constitution, May 9, 2016,” Larrazabal said in an interview.
“Comelec should focus all its effort now to make sure we have automated elections,” he added.
As a first step, he suggested the Comelec should reconsider its plan to activate on-screen verification, since printed receipts will be issued.
The poll watchdog group Kontra Daya welcomed the Supreme Court decision but said the Comelec must still address “other outstanding issues,” such as a source code review and the testing of the transmission and canvassing systems.
The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections also welcomed the Court decision saying that this would be part of the audit process and could further enhance the transparency and ensure the credibility of the elections.
Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voters chairperson Henrietta de Villa said she did not think the Court would reconsider its 14-0 decision.
“We are running out of time to reconfigure machines,” she said.
Lawmakers, meanwhile, rejected Bautista’s idea to hold elections over two days instead of one.
Reps. Jonathan de la Cruz of Abakada party-list, Silvestre Bello III of 1-BAP party-list, Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela, Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, Jerry Trenas of Iloilo City and Gus Tambunting of Parañaque said holding of May elections for two days was deplorable.
The lawmakers added that the Comelec should be able to find the ways to comply with the Court order without affecting its timetable.
“The Comelec has to do what it needs to do within the bounds of the law. It has to heed the order of the SC,” De la Cruz said.
Albano said the holding of a two-day election “is a recipe for chaos” as the Filipino voters are not prepared for it and it may violate the Constitutional provision that set the day of the elections.
The lawmakers said they welcomed the Supreme Court order and said the Comelec had no choice but to comply.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.