Comelec to face new Supreme Court case

MANILA, Philippines – It's not yet over. 

Two weeks after losing with finality in the case of voting receipts, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to face another case before the Supreme Court (SC).

Rodolfo Reyes, lawyer of senatorial candidate Richard Gordon, said election watchdogs will file a case against the Comelec after Holy Week – this time over digital signatures.

He said "interest groupswill file the case next week, only around 40 days before the May 9 elections. 

Reyes disclosed this on Wednesday, March 23, as the Comelec faced a joint congressional oversight committee hearing on the automated election system. (READ: Comelec eyes start of voting period at 6 am)

In an interview with reporters, Reyes explained that the law requires teachers, serving as election inspectors, to sign election returns through digital signatures.

In the current set-up, he said, the digital signature comes from the vote-counting machines, not the teachers.

“The digital signature should belong to a person, not a machine," Reyes told reporters.

He said digital signatures can help in holding the board of election inspectors (BEI) accountable. 

"You cannot sue the machine for election fraud. You can only sue the chairman of the BEI and the members of the BEI if they committed fraud," Reyes said. 

Reyes said they should not be faulted for planning to file this case, even after the SC's ruling on voting receipts already derailed the Comelec's timeline by weeks. 

He said, "Bakit sa amin ibabalik 'yan?" (Why should that be thrown at us?)

'Pattern of deception' hit 

The lawyer pointed out that election watchdogs already complained about digital signatures in the first automated elections in 2010, and in the second automated polls in 2013. 

He said the Comelec is repeating the same mistake in the automated elections this year.

Reyes said the poll body tends to say it will comply with the law, but ends up deciding "not to comply" and announcing this decision "late."

He said, "Nagkakaroon ng pattern of deception, e." (There's already a pattern of deception.)

The lawyer was also asked if the petitioners would consider filing the case before the 2019 elections instead, considering that the May 9 elections is very near.

"That’s what they're saying. But it begs the question," he said.

Referring to the Comelec, Reyes said: "Duty 'nyo 'yan e. Ba't 'di 'nyo ginawa? So bakit kami ang masama, 'di ba?" (That's your duty. Why didn't you do it? So why does it seem like we're the bad guys?)

Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim, for his part, said the law doesn't say a digital signature has to be personally generated. 

Sought for a reaction on the case about to be filed, Lim told reporters in jest, "Mas masaya." (That's more fun.)

"I mean, if the Supreme Court will order us, then we'll have to implement it," the Comelec commissioner said. 

Asked if the poll body will have time to change its digital signatures if the SC favors the petitioners, a smiling Lim said, "Ayoko nang sagutin 'yan. Sasagutin ko na 'yan sa Supreme Court." (I don't want to answer that anymore. I'll answer that before the Supreme Court.) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

image