The watchdog group Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) will act as the Commission on Elections’ citizen arm for the May 13 polls after the National Movement for Free Elections rejected its accreditation with the voting body.
In a press briefing Friday, Comelec Commissioner Luie Tito Guia said Lente will conduct the random manual audit of the midterm elections.
However, Namfrel chairman Gus Lagman clarified his group is not reneging on its obligation to lead the audit or RMA in a phone interview with UNTV News.
“It was Namfrel who had been chairing [the RMA] then. It might still be Namfrel to chair it now,” Lagman said, while also saying their group’s recent statement was “just a reaction” opposing the Comelec’s decision not to give them access to voters’ data or electronic information on the election results.
The independent poll watcher, accredited by Comelec since 1986, had warned that the midterm elections could be vulnerable to attacks.
But Lagman said: “There is no security problem there because those are results from each precinct. And Comelec has a website, so they should make it accessible to anybody who is interested. And because they will not put it in their website, we plan to just put it in Namfrel’s website so everybody can see.”
The Namfrel head still hopes the Comelec will change its decision and approve their request.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin on Friday directed all executive judges and clerks of court of the second- and first-level-courts to be at their respective posts on Monday to act on all election matters within their jurisdiction.
Citing Circular No. 05-2019 issued by the Office of the Court Administrator last January 11, Bersamin also cautioned them to resolve all election-related cases brought to them “with utmost caution and dispatch.”
The top magistrate made the call after Malacañang issued on Thursday Proclamation No. 719, series of 2019, declaring May 13 as a special non-working holiday throughout the country for the national and local elections.
Under Circular No. 05-2019, the executive judge may designate the vice-executive judge or any of the judges in the station if the same would not be able to report for duty on Monday.
Comelec’s Guia said they got in touch with other groups like Lente to fill the void left by Namfrel after the latter declined its accreditation as citizens’ arm for the elections because the poll body denied its request to access key election data.
“It was LENTE who said yes, but the condition is they are also willing to accept other groups to help the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants because they are well-versed in the process of auditing,” Guia said.
Lente describes itself on its as the “first nationwide network of volunteer lawyers, law students, and paralegals trained and deployed to monitor elections in the Philippines.”
It advocates electoral reforms and stronger institutional ties among various citizens’ arms and conducts voters’ education programs.