ELECTION watchdog Mata sa Balota on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to strictly follow the March 2016 high court ruling, allowing voters to verify if their votes have been counted.
In a 26-page petition filed weeks before the May 13 midterm elections, Mata sa Balota argued that the Comelec and automated election system provider Smartmatic Total Information Management should abide by the Court’s 2016 decision allowing the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).
“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,” the petitioner said.
The Comelec appealed the SC decision, saying VVPAT issuance is time-consuming and assumes that a voter with receipt is presumed “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” of vote-selling.
The petitioner asked the SC to declare as unconstitutional Section 2(f) of Comelec Resolution No. 10088 in April 2016 which banned the use of capturing devices including cellphones and digital cameras inside the polling place for “whatever purpose,” adding that there is no time stating within which the prohibition of camera use applies. It said the ban is contrary to the Omnibus Election Code which allows watchers to take photographs of proceedings and incidents.
Mata sa Balota noted in the petition that “Audit Trail” can be done at the close of polls by allowing volunteers to use their own cameras to take photos of each VVPAT which must strictly remain in the precinct. It said this could prevent vote-selling.
It said that voters expected to use their cameras for the “Audit Trail.”
“VVPAT receipts went rolling out from the machine but only for a fleeting moment for voter peep and then down to its ‘coffin’ forever with no audit,” Mata sa Balota said.
“Voters cannot assert their right and watchers cannot accomplish their duty to ‘take photographs of the proceedings and incidents’ under Omnibus Election Code Section 179 because doing so is unlawful under Comelec Resolution No. 10088 Section 2(f),” it said.
Mata sa Balota on April 16 also filed a petition before the Comelec questioning its rules on taking photos during election day. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas