Comelec starts preps for printing voter receipts

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MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has taken initial steps in issuing voters' receipts in the May 9 synchronized national and local elections.

In an interview with dzMM Friday, Comelec chairman, Atty. Andres Bautista said they have started addressing the "attendant risks" of activating the Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) feature of the vote-counting machines (VCMs).

These risks include stretching the voting period up to 20 hours or double the original voting hours set by Comelec from 7 a.m. up to 5 p.m.; voters leaving their precincts due to long queues; increased incidence of machine malfunction and failure due to paper jams; new opportunities for cheating, added burden on Comelec personnel and teachers; heightened risk for election failure; and a decrease in the Comelec's ability to conduct honest, credible, and clean elections.

The Comelec earlier listed these concerns in a motion for reconsideration (MR) that was junked Thursday when the high tribunal affirmed its order for the printing of voters' receipts.

Bautista said the poll body commissioners will hold a full bench session Friday to find remedies to their concerns.

"Marami pa ring agam-agam at pangamba pero sabi ko nga rin, magandang nag-desisyon na ang ating Korte Suprema. At least, mag-move forward na tayo ngayon," Bautista said.

The Comelec and election systems provider Smartmatic-TIM has also started re-configuring VCMs and enabling the VVPAT feature.

The poll body will also revise its supplemental general instructions to the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) for releasing vote receipts.

Teachers may also be retrained on facilitating the elections, Bautista added.

Bautista said that they will also intensify information drives so the public can familiarize themselves with the voting process before Election Day.

Comelec also plans to post improved signages of voting guidelines in public places a month before the May elections.

Bautista, who had initially protested the ruling, is also now confident they can provide voters' receipts, noting that these will contain only the votes as read by the VCM, but will not indicate the voting precinct and date.

He explained that inclusion of additional security features in the receipt will require the installment of new source codes in the VCMs.

"Ang malaking kumbaga balakid ay iyung kapag nagkaroon ng panibagong source code. Pero mukha namang okay na sa korte suprema yung tinatawag na simpleng resibo -- yung walang security marks, walang presinto, walang petsa, walang lugar. Kung ganon eh kakayanin natin iyun," the Comelec chairman said.

Several SC justices raised that these security features, among others, may be implemented in the 2019 elections.

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