Poll watchdogs preparing another case vs Comelec

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A little over a month before the May 9, 2016 elections, poll watchdogs are preparing to file another case against the Commission on Elections (Comelec) -- this time over the poll body's supposed non-compliance with the requirement of digital signatures for the automated elections.

This was revealed by Atty. Rodolfo Reyes, counsel of former Senator Richard Gordon, before members of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reform Wednesday. 

Reyes said it is against the law for the Comelec to allow the Election Management System to generate digital signatures instead of a third party.

Digital signatures are personal identification numbers assigned to members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) to represent their signatures in operating the vote counting machines. The digital signatures will also be used to transmit election results at the close of the voting process. 

"Digital signatures should come from the teachers and not from the machine," Reyes told reporters. 

"The idea of digital signatures is it comes from the election officer. Under BP 889, it is the teacher, para accountable. The machine cannot be accountable. You cannot sue the machine for election fraud. You can only sue the chairman and members of the BEI."

Reyes said IT groups have been complaining about the supposed non-compliance of the Comelec since the 2010 and 2013 elections, but to no avail. 

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) had generated thousands of digital signatures for use of the BEIs but these were not utilized by the Commission, apparently due to logistical problems. 

Reyes said their group is preparing a draft of the complaint that they are set to file before the Supreme Court (SC) by next week. 

The Comelec is still reeling over the high court's decision ordering the poll body to print voters' receipts, which greatly affected its timeline for the elections.

Responding to criticisms that another SC case will give another blow to the preparations for the polls, Reyes replied that there are still practical solutions to comply with the law. These include simply putting the DOST-generated codes into scratch cards and then distribute it to BEIs via regional Comelec offices.

"Eh duty niyo yan eh, bakit hindi niyo ginawa? Bakit kami ang masama," said Reyes.