A Catholic prelate again slammed the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting on Thursday for its supposedly continued subservience to the Commission on Elections instead of working to protect the vote of the Filipino people.
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said the PPCRV has repeatedly contradicted the Catholic Church’s position on key election matters and his archdiocese is glad they decided to withdraw support for the poll watchdog in 2013.
“Once again, the PPCRV under the leadership of [Henrrietta] de Villa and her lawyers defends the Comelec instead of being the citizen’s watchdog,” Arguelles said in a radio interview after it was reported that De Villa opposed the issuance of vote receipts because of possible vote buying.
“This declaration contradicts the CBCP stand,” said Arguelles, noting that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines had already issued a pastoral letter last Jan. 31 urging the Comelec to activate the voter verified paper audit trail required by the automated election law.
“We pray and urge Comelec to be strict and scrupulous in following the safeguards provided by law towards this goal,” CBCP president Socrates Villegas said in the pastoral letter.
Aside from the VPPAT, Villegas said the CBCP also wants the Comelec to use ultraviolet lamps to verify official ballots, use digital signatures, hold trustworthy a source code review that is not hampered by restrictive conditionalities, a true random manual audit immediately after the voting exercises; and reports on the Comelec website on the election results by precinct.
“We commend the Comelec for working towards a truly credible election: one that is not only honest, orderly and peaceful but is also perceived as such,” Villegas said.
But De Villa contradicted the position of the church and echoed the Comelec position saying that vote receipts will only encourage vote buying because a voter will have proof that he voted for a certain candidate.
De Villa also repeated the Comelec argument that it does not have enough time to reactivate the VVPAT feature because the agency has less than two months to prepare for the automated polls.
It was not the first time De Villa was accused of being “co-opted” by the poll body and compromising the credibility of the PPCRV as a nonpartisan poll watchdog.
During the last elections, De Villa was also criticized for partnering with Smartmatic-TIM consortium that is suppled the vote counting machines for the 2010 elections and in May.
Aside from the vote count machines, Smartmatic also provided the software that the PPCRV used to report the election results. However, on the eve of the 2013 election day, the watchdog released inaccurate date purportedly because of a formatting error in the Smartmatic software.
Also in 2013, about 16 civil society groups said the PPRCV betrayed public trust for being subservient to the Comelec and Smartmatic.
The groups included Konsensyang Pilipino of the recently deceased former Senate President Jovito Salonga and EarthSavers Movement of Cecille Guidote-Alvarez.