SC junks petition seeking public consultation by Comelec on automated system

Dwight de Leon

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SC junks petition seeking public consultation by Comelec on automated system

MOCK POLLS. Election personnel conduct mock polls for the October 30 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, at the Pasong Tamo Elementary School in Quezon City on October 25, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

The Supreme Court says groups that sued the Comelec failed to substantiate their allegations, and were not able to cure procedural defects in the filing of their petition

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) dismissed a case filed by various groups which sought to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to issue specific rules related to the automated election system (AES), and conduct public consultations in the crafting of such guidelines.

The petitioners, led by the Kilusan ng Mamamayan para sa Matuwid na Bayan, had flagged the supposed grave abuse of discretion committed by the poll body when it did not act on their request to issue implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on relevant laws pertaining to the “selection of the election system to be used during Philippine elections.”

They had claimed that the lack of IRR resulted in the “unfaithful implementation” of the laws.

The petition had also asked the Court to stop the Comelec from using Smartmatic’s vote-counting machines for the 2022 elections, until the poll body would act on its request to issue IRR on relevant AES laws.

“Petitioners failed to substantiate their allegation that there are no implementing rules for some of the crucial safeguards in the conduct of automated elections,” the ruling read.

The Court pointed out that Comelec Resolution No. 10088 – one of the documents cited by the petitioners – is among the documents that the poll body released to ensure “the integrity of the national and local elections.”

That resolution was released by the Comelec for the 2016 elections, pursuant to its authority under the Constitution, the Omnibus Election Code, and the poll automation law or Republic Act No. 9369.

The SC also noted that some concerns raised by the group regarding past Comelec resolutions had already been amended by succeeding memos released by the poll body.

For instance, petitioners had flagged a provision under Resolution No. 10008 which barred voters from using cameras or phones “for whatever purpose” while inside the polling place, arguing it would prevent voters from recording shortcomings of tech provider Smartmatic. The SC, however, pointed out that the restrictive phrase had been removed in an updated resolution in 2019.

Magistrates also said there were procedural defects in the filing of the petition.

“Parenthetically, not all of the remaining petitioners were able to show their legal standing to file the petition,” the ruling read.

Associate Justice Ricardo Rosario penned the 13-page decision, which was promulgated on June 13, 2023, but publicly released only on Monday, March 11.

Nine other justices concurred with the ruling, two magistrates took “no part” in the case, while three others were “on official leave.”

SC junks petition seeking public consultation by Comelec on automated system


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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.