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Journal Online - Blame game

News & Interviews
1 August 2019

By Journal Online

BLAME the teachers, not us.

This was the gist of the explanation given by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) when the poll body was ordered to shed light on why there were missing ballot images in the ongoing protest of former Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.

As part of their explanation, the Comelec made reference to its internal memorandum dated July 22, 2019 which said that “The audit logs obtained during the decryption of the SD cards of the above-stated clustered precincts reveal that the Electoral Boards (EBs) used the ‘REZERO’ command before shutting down the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs). As a result, all the reports and ballot images stored in the SD cards were permanently deleted.”

According to the Comelec, the teachers (Electoral Board) were told “to only use the “REZERO” command during the Final Testing and Sealing stage which is [done] before the [start] of elections.” The memo, however, did not say when the “REZEROING” of the VCMs was done and who ordered it despite a clear breach of protocol.

“The sparse explanation given by the Comelec to the PET just shows their lack of interest in finding out the reason for the disappearance of those ballot images. Blaming the teachers who just did what they were told is quite lame. Its nothing but a convenient excuse on their part,” said Marcos’ spokesperson Atty. Vic Rodriguez.

In its Resolution dated July 2, 2019, the PET denied Leni Robredo’s plea to dismiss the election protest filed against her by former Senator Marcos. The Court found Robredo’s Motion “premature” and “fundamentally flawed.”

The same Resolution also ordered the Comelec to comment on a previous Motion filed by Marcos seeking the poll body’s explanation regarding the absence of ballot images, the non-chronological sequencing of ballot images as well as the excess ballot images from several clustered precincts in Camarines Sur and Iloilo.

On the issue of non-chronological sequencing of ballot images, the Comelec memo said that “the secrecy of the ballots” was the primary consideration why the reports were scrambled. This was done to “eliminate any possible link between the ballot and the voter,” it said.

“Comelec’s explanation for the scrambled ballot images is preposterous. The information contained in the SD cards are very voluminous and would pose a great challenge to anyone who wants to retrace the records to a specific voter,” said Atty. Rodriguez.

On the issue of excess ballots from the clustered precincts in Caramoan, Camarines Sur, the Comelec said that they are “seeking the authority of this Honorable Tribunal . . . to decrypt and print the ballot images of the subject clustered precincts.”

“Its been over 3 years and not an ounce of investigative work was done by Comelec so they could get to the bottom of these anomalies. It’s been one palusot after another. If Comelec really wanted to, they could have probed deeper in order to uncover the truth behind the discrepancies we have highlighted. This will not sit well with the people and the Tribunal,” added Atty. Rodriguez.