MANILA - The camp of Senator Ferdinand ''Bongbong'' Marcos Jr. has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to explain why it approved the "stripping" of Vote Counting Machines (VCMs), despite the order of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) to ensure the integrity of poll records and paraphernalia.
In a resolution dated July 12, the Comelec full bench authorized the stripping of VCMs and consolidated canvassing system (CCS) laptops that were used in the May 9, 2016 elections at a Comelec warehouse in Sta. Rosa Laguna.
The activity was to be conducted simultaneously with the backing up of files in the SD cards and CCS laptops.
The Comelec resolution came out on the same day that the PET directed the poll body to "preserve and safeguard the integrity of ballot boxes and their contents, including the ballots, voter's receipts and election returns; the list of voters, particularly the Election Day Computerized Voter's List (EDCVL), and all log files; and all other documents or paraphernalia used in the May 2016 elections for the position of Vice President of the Philippines."
The PET protection order also included the "automated election equipment and records such as the Vote Counting Machines (VCM), Consolidation and Canvass System (CCS) units, Secure Digital (SD) cards (main and back up) and the other data storage devices in all of the 92,509 clustered precincts used in the May 2016 elections."
"It is in violation, certainly, of the order of the PET to preserve and safeguard the integrity of the ballot as well as the VCM and all the paraphernalia used. The order of the PET is express and clear, and any action by the Comelec to the contrary is an express and clear violation of the PET order," said Marcos' spokesperson Vic Rodriguez.
But Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista clarified that the en banc received the order of the PET, and another order from the Senate Electoral Tribunal, only after the en banc resolution was passed.
'NO DATA COMPROMISED'
Bautista added that stripping of VCMs and backing up of data is necessary to be able to return the machines to poll technology provider Smartmatic. He explained that the Comelec only leased the machines for the 2016 elections, with an option to purchase stipulated in the contract.
''We need to bring the VMCs back to Smartmatic since we only leased the machines. The data, however, were backed up. We are telling them the ramifications if we don't return the machines,'' Bautista said.
Bautista said the option to purchase the VMCs will be triggered if the machines are not returned by December 1.
He explained that stripping of the machine and the backing up of data will not compromise the results of the polls.
The poll chief said that the Comelec is looking at doing the stripping of the VCMs in the presence of the concerned party.
''Given the PPOs that were both issued by the SET and the PET, we have not done anything yet,'' Bautista said.
Marcos lost to Vice President Leni Robredo in the elections by a slim margin, and he claims that the votes were manipulated to favor the candidate of the administration.