Election day seen on May 23, Comelec tells SC

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, March 17, told the Supreme Court (SC) that last-minute changes due to voting receipts can force the poll body to postpone the elections to May 23.

This is one of two possible scenarios due to the SC’s ruling on voting receipts, Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim told the SC on Thursday morning.

Any postponement of the elections, will, however, require congressional action.

In the first scenario, the Comelec would need to modify the source code or “master blueprint” of vote-counting machines (VCMs). 

Only by modifying the source code can the Comelec enable security features in voting receipts. 

These security features include the ballot number and precinct number – without which the receipts become pieces of paper that cannot serve as reliable pieces of evidence.

If the Comelec modifies the source code to enable these features, Lim said the Comelec will have to postpone the elections to May 23.

On the other hand, if the Comelec does not modify the source code – and thus does not enable the security features – it can proceed with the elections as scheduled on May 9. 

Overseas voting to be rescheduled, too

Lim added that if the Comelec modifies the source code, it will have to move the start of overseas voting to April 23 from the original April 9.

Mock elections will also have to be done on April 5 under this scenario.

The Comelec faced the SC on Thursday morning for oral arguments on the issue of voting receipts.

During the oral arguments on Thursday, the Comelec also told the SC that the “marginal improvement” of issuing receipts from VCMs is not worth the costs that it entails.

Hilbay said issuing voting receipts, in fact, can heighten the “risk of an election failure.”

He added that issuing voting receipts, for one, can extend the voting period to up to 20 hours.

It can also present “new opportunities for cheating,” as politicians can use the receipts in vote-buying.

“Yes, we can physically cram all the activities so that we can meet the May 9 deadline,” Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista told the SC. “But we will be taking a significant amount of risk, and it may impact the credibility of the elections.” – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.