POLL WATCHDOG Mata sa Balota Movement will file a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to fully comply with rulings on the automated elections, with less than a month to go before the May 13 midterm elections. On Tuesday, Mata sa Balota announced their plan to file an urgent mandamus petition against the Comelec and its Automated Election System (AES) provider, Smartmatic Total Information Management (Smartmatic). The group is seeking to have Comelec honor a 2016 SC ruling that mandates the auditable Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), and comply with digital signatures of the election results. “VVPAT is the one and only rare opportunity for a Voter to be sovereign in at least that specific moment of auditing the trustworthiness of a machine,” reads a copy of the Mata sa Balota draft petition obtained by BusinessWorld. Prior to the 2016 SC ruling, the Comelec en banc voted unanimously against issuing voter receipts, citing these were used for vote buying. The Comelec also asserted that they have been following the VVPAT requirement, noting that the ballot itself serves as a physical record of the voter’s activity for the elections.
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The petition will also seek to revise Comelec’s ban on using digital cameras and cellular phones in the polling sites. Mata sa Balita said existing laws do not ban photography at the voting precincts. “The 1985 Omnibus Election Code allows the taking of photographs of the counting process or the proceedings and incidents,” Mata sa Balota Legal Counsel Melchor Magdamo said. “The relevance of filing this case is to tell the Supreme Court of the irregularities and anomalies that are prevailing in the electoral system being conducted by the Comelec for May 13,” Mata sa Balota Chairperson Leo O. Olarte told BusinessWorld on Tuesday. — Gillian M. Cortez