Manila Bulletin - Comelec commissioner warns on ‘worst case scenario’ on procurement for 2022 elections; Sotto, De Lima call for Senate action

News & Interviews
30 November 2020

By Genalyn Kabiling & Mario Casayuran | Manila Bulletin

Chaos might erupt if certain safeguards on the procurement of equipment for the automated elections would be disregarded and this could affect the credibility of the polls, according to a Commission on Elections (Comelec) official.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon has warned about the “worst-case scenario” about the country’s automated polls after concerns on equipment procurement were raised on social media.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier vowed to look into the alleged attempt to include a provision in the proposed 2021 national budget that will supposedly allow Comelec to waive the poll requirements listed in Section 12 of the country’s law on automated election system. Such move cannot be allowed, Sotto added.

The provision deals with the authority of Comelec to procure poll equipment and materials for the automated elections, including the system that “must have demonstrated capability and been successful used in a prior electoral exercise here and abroad.”

“Good that SP @sotto tito is looking at an attempt to insert in the GAA power of @COMELEC to waive bidding requirement of suppliers’ (prior) successful track record in automated election(sec12 Automated election Law),” Guanzon tweeted Monday.

“Thank you @SP @sotto_tito If you waive bidding requirement of prior track record it is very risky. worst scenario: chaos nationwide, allegations of fraud. No credible elections,” she added.

Sotto earlier commented on a tweet made by a netizen that “someone at the Senate” was trying to include the provision in the budget proposal that gives Comelec the authority to set aside safeguards such as mandatory tests and reviews, of all automated poll equipment. The senator said such move was “easy to shoot down.”

“I’m looking into it already. Cannot allow!” the Senate leader tweeted.

“Easy to shoot down the proposal: Provisions of a general law cannot amend the provision of a special law. RA 8436 as amended by 9369 is a special law while GAA is a general law, he said.

Meanwhile, opposition Senator Leila de Lima today also urged her colleagues in the Legislative branch to be vigilant in any attempt to sabotage the forthcoming 2022 national elections.

‘’There is no excuse for Comelec not to undergo regular procurement. If they cannot do their job, they have no business running a most crucial institution. They better just resign,’’ she added.

De Lima said any attempts at negotiated procurement for election equipment could only be seen as negotiating the elections itself.

‘’Our elections are sacrosanct to our democracy. And Comelec should resist any attempts by anyone to undermine its credibility, no matter who appointed them,’’ she explained.

‘’Anyone who seeks to steal our elections is an enemy to our people and our democracy. They should be treated as such,’’ de Lima pointed out.

Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives bicameral conference committee meet for the first time tomorrow to iron out the differing provisions in their version of the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget.

Both chambers were expected to pass a ratify a committee report on the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) and send an enrolled bill to Malacanang for approval or veto.