Former Senator Richard J. Gordon yesterday advised the Commission on Elections not to waste time making excuses to avoid complying with the Supreme Court’s order to enable the vote counting machines to print voters’ receipts in the upcoming May 9 elections.
In a statement, the Bagumbayan senatorial bet said the poll body should instead look for solutions to comply and ensure that the security features will be implemented to protect the integrity of the elections at this crucial time, particularly when the SC’s is merely reiterating the minimum standards which the poll body should have complied with from the very beginning.
“There is nothing more vital at this critical time than to ensure that the COMELEC will conduct a free, orderly, clean, honest, and truthful election for the Filipino people this 2016. But instead of acting upon the order of the Supreme Court, COMELEC instead decides to waste precious time by making numerous press releases explaining the difficulty of the tasked placed upon them by the Honorable Court rather than looking for solutions to comply and ensure that the voting machines will contain all the necessary security features to protect the sanctity of the upcoming elections,” he said.
Gordon scoffed at the Comelec for making lame excuses such as the printing of vote receipts is likely to disrupt its timeline for preparations because of the need to conduct public biddings before they could procure the additional supplies and equipment that would be needed such as thermal papers and receipt receptacles since the old ballot boxes were being used to store old paper ballots.
“Let us not be persuaded by their excuses. The act of procuring additional supplies and equipment namely the thermal paper and receipt receptacles need not entail severe setbacks on the timeline of COMELEC,” he said.
Gordon pointed out that Section 48 of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9184, Otherwise Known as the Government Procurement Reform Act, provides for Alternative Methods of Procurement as an option to ensure efficiency in the delivery public service subject to the prior approval of the Head of the Procuring Entity.
He added one of the alternative methods of procurement is the Negotiated Procurement whereby the procuring entity directly negotiates a contract with a technically, legally, and financially capable supplier, contractor, or consultant. Section 53.2 of the said Revised IRR gives a procuring entity the option to undertake a project through a Negotiated Procurement in cases where immediate action is necessary to restore vital public services.
“Since the law itself provides for a more efficient way of delivering public service especially at a very crucial time when election is just two months away, it is matter of political will for the poll body to issue a resolution to conduct a Negotiated Procurement instead of making excuses about them incurring setbacks because of the recent Supreme Court order,” the senatorial candidate stressed.
Gordon also belied the poll body’s claim that enabling the VVPAT feature of the VCMs would incur additional cost. He said that since the Comelec was found to have been violating Section 6(e) of Republic Act 9369, Automated Election Law that he authored, “the poll body has been, in truth, short changing the Filipino people during the past 2010 and 2013 Elections when they refused to activate the VVPAT feature.”
He noted that when the Comelec conducted a public testing of the VCMs in October 2015 which the Bagumbayan participated in, it was clear that the machines have the capability to print out receipts and that the printer of the receipts is embedded in the machine itself. After having been assured that the VCM has all the security features mandated by RA 9369, Gordon was aghast when the Comelec announced, a few months before the elections, that they are disabling the VVPAT feature.
“There could be no rhyme or reason why they unilaterally disabled the VVPAT feature embedded in the machine itself. The bottom line is, the COMELEC cannot choose which parts of the law to follow and which not to. They have done this in the 2010 and 2013 elections. The criminal pattern is apparent,” Gordon stressed.
“First, they decide among themselves without making it public that they will not comply with the law, then they make a formal announcement near the elections, that they will not comply with the law. Then when someone complains, they say it’s too late. They’re acts are seemingly premeditated and criminal,” he added.