Comelec ‘submits’ to SC, vows polls on May 9

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Comelec ‘submits’ to SC, vows polls on May 9
The Comelec says it will issue voting receipts on May 9, but without security features, such as ballot and precinct numbers

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, March 17, promised to hold the Philippine elections on May 9 after it lost in its Supreme Court (SC) appeal against voting receipts.

“We submit,” Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista told reporters after the SC decided 13-0 to deny the poll body’s motion for reconsideration.

The SC had ordered the Comelec to issue voting receipts, based on a petition filed by senatorial candidate Richard Gordon and his political party Bagumbayan.

The Comelec failed to meet its deadline to comment on Gordon and Bagumbayan’s petition, and filed an appeal after the SC issued its initial ruling on March 8. The SC responded by setting oral arguments on Thursday. (READ: Why Comelec failed to defend itself before SC: ‘We were busy’)

During the oral arguments on Thursday, the Comelec said the “marginal improvement” of issuing receipts is not worth the costs that it entails.

Less than an hour after the oral arguments, the SC – in one of its quickest decisions – announced that it had denied the Comelec’s appeal.

In an interview with reporters in the Comelec main office after 3 pm on Thursday, Bautista said, “Basically we will comply, and we will try to do our best to still ensure credible elections in 2016.” 

Asked if this means the Comelec will hold the elections on May 9, the Comelec chairman said, “Yes.” 

No security features in receipts

Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim earlier said 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, Lim said. 

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 numbers, precinct numbers, and hash codes – 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.

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

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.

Bautista confirmed on Thursday afternoon that the Comelec has decided not to modify the “trusted build” which involves the source codes of the VCMs. 

The voting receipts on May 9 will not contain security features, Bautista said. 

Explaining why the Comelec is not including the security features, Bautista explained, “Eh kasi nga kailangan nating magkahalalan nang May 9.” (Because we need to hold the elections on May 9.)

The elections chief said the Comelec is holding a special meeting on Friday, March 18, to discuss its next steps after the SC junked its appeal on voting receipts. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering 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