Heated exchange forces Senate election agenda to take back seat
June 24, 2014

The Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) has been asked by the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation (CERPP) to submit its manifestations on a proposed immunity to allow the disclosure of proofs of electronic fraud committed in the last May 2013 elections as well as on the non-convening of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) on automated elections, on the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) report on the May 2013 elections, and on the absence of IRR on RA 9369 or the modern election law.

The Senate hearing: (l-r) Sens. Cayetano, Koko Pimentel (presiding), Grace Poe, and Chiz Escudero. (Photo by Nelson J. Celis)

Sen. Grace Poe-Llamansares asked this of AES Watch at the last minute as the committee hearing on June 10, 2014 was bogged down with a verbal tussle between Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes. The hearing, held jointly with the committees on public order and dangerous drugs as well constitutional amendments and revision of codes, was set to tackle amendments to the Omnibus Election Code (BP 881), anti-wire tapping law, and on the privilege speech of Poe on the “Hello, Garci” election fraud tapes of 2004.

Questions raised by Cayetano on whether Brillantes filed charges against local Comelec officials linked to the Garci tapes scandal – revealing the alleged complicity between then President Gloria M. Arroyo and election officials to ensure the latter’s win over Poe’s father and presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. – triggered the heated exchange that lasted for hours. Brillantes confirmed that his office was unable to pursue charges against the local Comelec officials on the 2004 election fraud.

AES Watch, represented in the CERPP hearing by spokesperson Nelson J. Celis and co-convener Maricor Akol, was left with only a couple of minutes to present issues related to the May 2013 automated elections.

The next automated elections involving the presidential, congressional, and local contests are barely two years away – May 2016. Although Comelec claims it is in the thick of preparations, the choice of a new technology to be used in the 2016 polls remains unclear. Under the law, two bodies – the CAC and JCOC – are mandated to recommend the election technology to be used. Until now – more than one year after the last elections – the JCOC has not convened while the CAC report has not been publicized for transparency.

Meantime, in both houses of Congress are pending bills seeking to amend RA 9369. CenPEG News

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