Probe Comelec irregularities and non-compliance of the Poll Automation Law
Following repeated threats of Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes to sue and expose leaders of the election watchdog, Automated Elelction System Watch as acting in “conspiracy” to sow public distrust on the election, members and conveners of AES Watch today called for the immediate resignation of former election lawyer, Sixto Brillantes, Jr., from his post as chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Brillantes had earlier accused the watchdog of “election sabotage.” Last week, the poll chief threatened to sue his critics, but withdrew the same threat the other day.
“Coming from the head of a constitutional and powerful body, his threats send a chilling effect not only on AES Watch members but other election watch groups, political parties, candidates, and other stakeholders,” the group said.
The forty-plus coalition of citizens’ organizations composed of academics, IT experts and professionals, policy study analysts, faith-based groups, grassroots organizations, poll watchdogs, good governance advocates and legal groups speaking through its spokesperson, former Philippine Computer Society president, Nelson Celis said, “Chairman Brillantes should make true his threat to sue instead of harassing us with dangerous labels, so that truth will out.”
“If he adheres to the democratic principles of transparency and accountability, Chairman Brillantes should stop threatening and go through due process made available by the Constitution and the laws of the land to respond to the issues raised by legitimate citizens’ groups,” Celis stressed.
By resorting to labeling, name-calling and repeated threats to harass Comelec critics, Chairman Brillantes is diluting the real issues of the non-compliance of the Comelec under his administration to the absence of independent source code, digital signatures and vote verification by the voter as required by law, said Celis, Most Outstanding Electronics Engineer in IT for 2012 and a DLSU business management professor
“Instead of refuting point-by-point the concerns that we’ve raised since 2009 and aggravating issues under his watch, the Comelec chairman has resorted to name-calling and intimidation, challenging his critics to show their credentials,” added Celis. He added, “these irresponsible threats are meant to muzzle election stakeholders especially critics for them to just keep quiet amid the publicly-exposed blatant transgressions of election law, the repeated errors, malfunctioning, and glitches of the PCOS machines, data inconsistencies, and recently, the bypassing of canvassing rules.”
“With his constant flip-flopping decisions and public statements that apparently were unilateral and ill-consulted, Brillantes is showing a negative example of how to lead a vital government body. He should be aware that being on top of a powerful constitutional body running the elections in the country, the principle of transparency is very important to win over legitimate citizens’ groups working with the same objective and he does not have the monopoly in pursuing meaningful electoral reform,” Celis further said.
“We welcome the chairman’s threat to sue us so all parties will be compelled to make public all vital information about the automated system provided by the foreign supplier, Smartmatic, which up to now continues to be kept secret by the Comelec itself,” Celis added.
Bobby M. Tuazon, Director for Policy Studies of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) and AES Watch co-convener, said the former election lawyer’s threats constitute political harassment and a human rights case. Thirty four individuals led by members of AES Watch including lawyer Harry Roque recently went up to the United Nations Human Rights Council to file a Petition seeking relief on the continued violation of civil and political rights of citizens
“He’s unleashing undue harm on the persons of the AES Watch membership many of them eminent and independent-minded persons in the IT industry, academe, NGOs, church, and public administration,” Tuazon added.
Tuazon said. “Such behavior is usually resorted to by people unable to come out with rational answers to rational and legitimate questions.
Tuazon said that it is on public record that AES Watch is not just a “critic” on the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the Smartmatic-provided. “AES Watch has gone on public since 2009, engaged Comelec, Congress, Malacanang, and other state agencies with our research-grounded findings back by proposed policy reforms and system improvements,” he added. AES Watch was active member of congressional electoral reform committees in the 15th Congress.
“Its recent assessments and projections on the 2013 automated election have been validated by actual incidents,” Tuazon said. “In fact, it’s not AES Watch alone that has spoken up against the highly-irregular conduct of poll automation this year but Comelec’s three accredited election watchdogs as well.”
Another AES Watch member, IT security expert Lito Averia, said “Brillantes was just piqued when I disputed his claim that only 200 PCOS machines malfunctioned on Election Day when incident reports showed more than 1,500 PCOS units did not work.”
Maricor Akol, president of the Philippine National IT Standards, said AES Watch was only raising legitimate issues but if the Comelec chairman “cannot stand the heat then he should go.”
Meanwhile, the AES Watch led by former Vice President, Teofisto Guingona, Jr. also called for an independent fact finding body to probe into the highly-irregular conduct of the 2013 mid-term elections topped by the arbitrary decisions of the Comelec chairman that infringe on the election law and voters’ rights for their vote to be counted accurately, thus raising questions on the integrity of election.
Fr. Joe Dizon, a convener of AES Watch and Kontra Daya spokesperson said, “Let an independent body of competent and independent IT, public administration, scientists and other experts recommended and endorsed by non-partisan organizations be formed to ferret out the truth behind the highly irregular actions of the Comelec on the non-compliant Smartmatic voting technology.”
“The conspiracy that should be investigated is the conspiracy between the Comelec and Smartmatic in deceiving the people about the true state of the election technology,” he noted. We also call on all reform minded groups and individuals to participate in submitting information on the widespread glitches and irregularities related to the Smartmatic-run technology including massive vote buying which poll automation has never addressed, he added.
Dizon said, “re-using the uncorrected and unlicensed Smartmatic voting technology in 2016 poses a dangerous and certainly anti-people precedence in promoting a voting system that does not count accurately because of uncorrected program errors and non-transparent because it does not verify the votes cast by the voters.” Smartmatic and Comelec should be made accountable for their negligence and utter disregard of the security safeguards to make poll automation compliant and pro-people, he further added.