Comelec chair gets CA nod as he defends 2016 polls

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2018 02:10 PM | Updated as of May 23 2018 04:42 PM

Senate President and Commission on Appointments (CA) chairman Vicente “Tito” Sotto III (4th from left) poses with Sheriff Manimbayan Abas (3rd from left) after his appointment as chairman of the Commission on Elections was confirmed Wednesday. Cesar Tomambo, Senate PRIB

MANILA (UPDATED) - Commission on Elections commissioner Sheriff Abas on Wednesday defended the credibility of the 2016 national elections, as he sought confirmation of his ad interim appointment from lawmakers. 

"We maintain maganda po ang result ng 2016 [elections]," Abas told the Commission on Appointments. 

"Marami po kaming safeguards na ipinatupad, certified din po ang aming system ng international community at masusi rin po naming sinuri ang aming ginamit na source code," he added. 

(We maintain that the result of the 2016 elections was good. We implemented many safeguards, our system was certified by the international community and we thoroughly examined the source code used.) 

Abas's predecessor, Andres Bautista, has been accused by his estranged wife's camp of pocketing money from Smartmatic, the private contractor that supplied the automated election system for the 2010, 2013, and 2016 national elections. Bautista's wife also accused the former poll chief of failing to declare P1 billion in assets.

Bautista denied the allegation and resigned from his post in October 2017. 

Former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., meanwhile, has claimed that he lost to Vice President Leni Robredo by some 260,000 votes in the 2016 polls due to alleged "massive cheating." 

He has questioned Robredo's electoral victory before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. 

During the CA hearing, Abas said Comelec conducted a “random manual audit” in some 600 polling precincts, which yielded a 99.9-percent accuracy. 

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, he said, tallied the same accuracy rate in its own validation process. 

Abas also defended the purchase of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, saying these were effective and cheaper than other options. 

2019 SENATE RACE 

Asked by Senators Gregorio Honasan II and Panfilo Lacson about what should be expected in next year’s midterm polls, Abas gave the assurance that the country will have "credible elections." 

To avoid confusion, he also invited the politicians to attend the Comelec-sponsored "source code" seminar before the polls. 

Abas also urged House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia to reconsider pushing for a bill proposing manual voting and a hybrid canvassing process for next year's elections. 

Comelec encountered technical glitches during the pilot testing of this voting and canvassing scheme in Bacoor, Cavite, he said. 

He also discouraged lawmakers from championing manual elections, which he described as “bloody” (madugo). 

The CA confirmed Abas in the same hearing, a move welcomed by Malacañang.

"We welcome the confirmation of the appointment of Commissioner Sheriff M. Abas as the new Commission on Elections Chairperson," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

"We are confident that Chairperson Abas would carry out his duties with integrity, excellence and competence to regain public trust in the electoral body," he added.

-- Report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News