THE Commission on Elections said Monday they are down to two options: postpone the elections by three weeks or hold the elections on May 9 as scheduled with its credibility diminished.
Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said the Comelec en banc would decide which way to go, after the Supreme Court ordered the poll agency to issue printed receipts to voters.
Lim also said that contrary to earlier reports, the Comelec is not considering a return to manual voting.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, who said the Supreme Court ruling on printed receipts would set back preparations for the elections, said they never considered a no-election scenario, but said a postponement was possible.
He admitted, however, that a postponement would require that Congress pass a law.
“I want to emphasize that the primary duty of the Comelec is not just to conduct elections but elections that are orderly and credible,” Bautista said.
On Monday morning, the Comelec officials held a meeting with its Comelec Advisory Committee and Technical Evaluation Committee to seek advice on what steps to take in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
The Comelec then met with representatives from the political parties, where both options were presented.
Most of the political parties urged the Comelec to push through with the elections on May 9 no matter what, said Nationalist People’s Coalition legal counsel and former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.
“We said there has to be a consensus that we have to have a credible automated elections on May 9, 2016. And everybody in the room agreed to that. They have to reach that goal. There is no option. We have to have automated elections and the preparations to achieve that goal just have to be met,” Larrazabal told the reporters.
He added that the political parties also rejected manual voting, which he said was illegal.
“If you postpone the election, that will be a huge political upheaval. The people won’t agree to that,” Larrazabal said.
A failure of election, he added, should not be entertained because as long as voters are able to cast their votes, these can be tallied even beyond 5 p.m.
The representative of United Nationalist Alliance, Ivan John Uy, agreed that the elections must be held on May 9.
Only the Nacionalista Party rejected both options presented and urged the Comelec not to activate the voter receipt feature, Lim said.
Earlier, In a separate interview, Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim said that it will be also impossible to conduct a credible automated elections for overseas voters on April 9.
Lim said bringing back the 1,400 SD cards that were already sent to 30 embassies in various countries and reconfiguring them at the Comelec’s warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, would take 21 days.
After that, they would still need to train all the board of election inspectors, a process that would take days.
Lim said, the Court decision was “far reaching and totally unexpected.”
UP law professor and Kabayan party-list nominee Harry Roque Jr. urged the Supreme Court to stand firm on its decision on voter receipts.
In a petition-in-intervention, Roque backed the earlier petition filed by a group led by former senator Richard Gordon last month, which was granted by the high court last week.
In disabling the essential security features of the automated election system, the poll body brazenly and unconscionably deprived voters of their right to verify whether or not their votes were appreciated and counted correctly in accordance with their choice, Roque said.
The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan also rejected a postponement.
“We oppose moves to postpone the elections, not simply because it is against the Constitution, and definitely not because we believe in its promise of change, but because a delay in the polls will ultimately favor the incumbent Aquino regime and its candidates,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.
Reyes said a delay will allow the Aquino administration to dip deeper into public coffers to bankroll its administration bets, led by its standard bearer Manuel Roxas II.
Lawmakers led by senatorial candidate and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also rejected a return to manual voting.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Constitution is clear: the elections must be held on the second Monday of May and must be automated.
“The mere fact that the Commission on Elections feel justified in flouting the Constitution and the law leads many to suspect that this is opening more opportunities for abuse and cheating. We must not allow this to happen. We must maintain the integrity and the credibility of the electoral process,” Marcos said. With Rey E. Requejo, Christine F. Herrera and Maricel V. Cruz