Marcos to Comelec: Why ‘strip’ VCMs despite SC protection order?

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr questioned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for touching the vote counting machines (VCMs) after the Supreme Court (SC) issued an order to protect the election paraphernalia in relation to his electoral protest.

The SC, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), announced last week that it granted on July 12 Marcos’ petition to preserve all the props used during the last elections in light of his protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.

In a letter filed with the poll body on Thursday, August 11, Marcos’ lawyer Jose Amorado asked the Comelec to explain why it still granted the request of Election Records and Statistics Department (ERSD) Director Ester Villaflor Roxas “to back up the files in the SD cards and CCS laptop units that were used during the May 9, 2016 elections.”

Amorado argued that securing the data was conducted through a Comelec en banc resolution dated July 12 – the same day the SC en banc also decided to issue a protection order.

The Comelec resolution became the basis for the “stripping” or disabling activity that started on July 16 at the Laguna warehouse, where it is keeping the VCMs.

While the SC released the precautionary protection order (PPO) only on August 2, it had earlier “announced to the public” its July 12 decision, Marcos’ spokesperson lawyer Vic Rodriguez pointed out.

“We are not saying that, by stripping, the data will be changed, but really we are saying: Why did the Comelec make this order when there was already a protection order by the PET to preserve all those used in the last elections?” Rodriguez said.

“We [also] want to know from the Comelec if it still continued with, and is still carrying out, the stripping activity of the VCM and CCS laptops units which supposedly started last July 16 and from that time and the issuance of the order, so much time had lapsed, which is the reason why we want to know what happened through this letter,” he added.

Follow up

Rodriguez also urged the poll body to specify the actions that the Comelec has taken to preserve the integrity of the poll materials “used in all the 92,509 clustered precincts nationwide.”

The Marcos camp also followed up on their petition last May for a systems audit, following reports on Smartmatic officials’ unauthorized breach of the election servers. The Marcos camp has maintained that this could have caused the sudden surge in Robredo’s lead during the unofficial canvassing of votes. (READ: Marcos camp files formal request to open Comelec servers

The Comelec deferred action on the petition since the official canvassing of votes in Congress had started at the time.

“After the conduct of the canvassing, they no longer made any action. That is the reason why we again sent a letter, but until now we are still waiting for their action,” Rodriguez said.

They also demanded that the Comelec explain the 3-month delay in the certification of the source codes. They said the source code certification should have been issued on or before February 9, but it was issued only on April 30, which violates the Automated Election Law. –

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.