Waiving safeguards on poll equipment could lead to fraud: lawyer


Posted at Dec 02 2020 10:10 AM | Updated as of Dec 02 2020 10:49 AM

An election officer and a technician checks a vote-counting machine at the Tomas Morato Elementary School in Quezon City, May 13, 2019. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - An election lawyer on Wednesday raised concerns over a provision inserted in next year's spending plan that would waive safeguards on equipment to be used in the 2022 polls, which could open the door to massive fraud.

Speaking to ANC's "Matters of Fact," lawyer Emil Marañon said the proposal, which had nothing to do with the budget but was "sneakily" inserted in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), could jeopardize the fairness of the upcoming elections.

"For me, this is a very dangerous proposal considering the fact the moment you make an election system less secure and more susceptible to fraud, then this is actually a threat to democracy," he said.

"Bakit mo naman gagawing less secure ang election system natin? (Why will you make our election system less secure?) Because this could be a premise to a massive fraud in the next election if you allow this."

The Senate had confirmed that such provision was included in the proposed 2021 budget and planned to block the proposal, saying it is unconstitutional.

However, they have yet to reveal the name of the senator who proposed allowing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to waive tests and certifications for the security of equipment that would be used in automated polls.

Marañon stressed that any changes to the election system should go through consultations and studies.

Under Republic Act 9369 or the Automated Election Law, the election system procured must have demonstrated capability and been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad.

"Ayaw ng batas na maging guinea pig ang ating election system... sabi sa batas natin, dapat tried and tested na ang 'yong automated election system na gagamitin," he said.

(The law doesn't want our election system tested like a guinea pig... The automated election system that will be used should be tried and tested.)

Marañon also expressed concern that the lawmaker who made such a proposal was cutting corners by inserting it in the spending bill, which will be deliberated by the bicameral conference committee this week.

"For me, this is very dangerous, this is sneaky. Ano po masyadong traydor ang pagkakagawa nito if in case maging successful sila (this is made treacherously if it will be successful) because behind everyone’s back, you actually insert a provision, which will have a vital effect and can endanger the election system," he said.

Since the government system is founded on transparency, Marañon urged the upper chamber to reveal the name of the lawmaker who made the insertion.

"The Senate president and even some senators who knew this would have the actual obligation before the public to disclose kung sinong senator 'yong gustong pahinain ang election system natin (who's that senator who wants our election system weakened)," he said.

Under the P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget, the Comelec is expected to receive at least P14.56 billion to prepare for the 2022 national elections.

Congress has began bicameral deliberations and will submit the spending bill for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature by mid-December ahead of the expiration by yearend of the current budget.

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