MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) aimed anew at its client, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), in a petition filed with the Supreme Court that zeroed in on the poll body’s alleged shortcomings in its preparations ahead of the high-stakes May 9 vote.
In a statement on Wednesday, April 13, Jose Calida’s office said its latest Supreme Court pleading – a petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus – sought to “compel the Comelec to faithfully execute its constitutional duty to enforce election laws.”
Specifically, the office of the government’s chief lawyer raised the following issues:
- Comelec’s failure to allow observers during the early days of ballot printing
- Comelec’s preparation of SD cards without witnesses
- Comelec’s supposed failure to grant open access of source code for proper review
Comelec Commissioner and steering committee head Marlon Casquejo did apologize to lawmakers in a congressional hearing in March for the lack of election observation groups in the first few months of ballot printing, although he insisted it was due to strict pandemic restrictions back then.
The Comelec also conducted a random ballot inspection for such groups, and set up a livestream of the printing process to allay fears that the election body had not been transparent about its operations.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, the Comelec shall allow entities designated by the poll body to observe the proceedings of the printing committee in connection with the printing of the official ballots.
Calida’s office also asked the High Court to restrain the Comelec and election software provider Smartmatic from “setting up, maintaining, and operating ‘secret servers’ and/or ‘meeting rooms.'”
The issue about the supposed ‘meet-me room’ emerged in the 2019 polls, following a delayed transmission of election results to the transparency server, now infamously known as the seven-hour glitch.
The Comelec has said the supposed “meet-me room” was not a separate server, just a transmission router.
This is not the first time Calida targeted the Comelec in the Supreme Court. In March, his office ran to the High Court in a bid to nullify the fact-checking agreement between the poll body and news website Rappler.
Rappler, in its comment, asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the OSG’s petition, which the media organization described as full of malicious misrepresentations. – Rappler.com