Former Senator Richard J. Gordon yesterday advised the Commission on Elections not to follow the footsteps of former Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin in refusing to protect the sanctity of the ballot by implementing the safeguards required by the poll automation law.
Gordon derided anew the Comelec’s decision to deactivate the voter verified paper audit trail feature of the vote counting machines to be used because the election system should be changed to allow the printing of receipts.
“The Comelec appears to be working with Stalin in mind, particularly his words, ‘It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.’ The people wants to be sure that their votes are counted correctly and the VVPAT would ensure this but the Comelec instead deactivate the said feature,” he said.
Gordon pointed out that Section 6 (e), (f) and (n) of Republic Act 9369 or the Amended Automated Elections System Law states that “(e) Provision for voter verified paper audit trail; (f) System auditability which provides supporting documentation for verifying the correctness of reported election results; and (n) Provide the voter a system of verification to find out whether or not the machine has registered his choice…”
He authored and sponsored RA 9369 to amend Republic Act 8436, the law enacted in 1997 to authorize the Comelec to use and automated election system in the 1998 elections and subsequent national or local electoral exercises.
Gordon pointed out that the Comelec had already defied the law in the past two automated elections, even hoodwinking the Supreme Court in the Roque vs COMELEC case into believing that the actual ballot will suffice as the paper audit trail required by the poll automation law.
“You are not Congress” he told the Comelec, adding “Congress put it there because we wanted to protect the votes of the public. Both laws have it. Why are you not following the law? You are not protecting the votes. Please protect the votes.”
Gordon reiterated that enabling the VCM’s screen verification feature does not sufficiently meet the requirements of the law because it calls for a combination of screen, paper audit trail that is different from the actual ballots and system to ensure that voters can verify that the machines correctly counted their votes.
He also refuted the Comelec’s statement that longer voting days would allow the Comelec to use the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail feature of the automated election machines in future polls.
“That’s not true. The machines already have the VVPAT feature, it would only extend the voting hours by a few hours. Kung gusto maraming paraan, kung ayaw maraming dahilan,” Gordon stressed.