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The Philippine Star - Congress joint panel to start probe on poll glitches

News & Interviews
2 June 2019

By Paolo Romero | The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JCOC-AES) will conduct an inquiry tomorrow into the voting and transmission glitches that occurred during the May 13 elections.

The panel’s review will come after President Duterte earlier asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to look for a replacement for Smartmatic, the service provider for the country’s automated polls since 2010.

Smartmatic, the world’s largest elections technology company, however, had a much-reduced role in the last polls, Comelec officials earlier stressed.

The JCOC-AES, chaired by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III and CIBAC party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, will look into the glitches that marred some of the voting in many polling precincts as well as the seven-hour delay in the transmission of election returns.

The panel will also investigate the thousands of defective SD cards, which were tagged as the main culprit of the glitches, reportedly supplied by S1-Silicon Valley company.

It will review the report of its technical working group on various election-related issues, and the report of the local source code reviewers.

Pimentel earlier lamented the glitches still occurred despite assurances from Comelec officials, who were given a budget of over P10 billion for the conduct of polls alone.

He said the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world that has a dedicated government agency tasked to administer the elections.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan last week said officials of the Comelec and the Duterte administration must also be held accountable for various violations of the law in connection with the recently concluded polls.

Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP), said he is fully supportive of electoral reforms but listed several questionable acts from the Comelec and Duterte himself that need to be addressed.

He cited the administration candidates’ “barefaced violation of election laws on billboards, posters, and use of government resources and facilities during the campaign.”

Pangilinan described Malacañang’s release of a “baseless narcolist” as “a blatant intimidation and threat of our local politicians all over the country.”

“Many times the President threatened local politicians that he will put on hold their projects if they would not support his candidates,” Pangilinan said.

He recalled the Comelec denied the LP’s request that it conduct a debate during the campaign period so that voters are able to know more about all candidates’ qualifications.

The poll body also named the Nacionalista Party, which is allied with the majority as the “dominant minority,” which Pangilinan said is contrary to the country’s laws, common sense and the spirit of democracy.

The senator said there are many reports of unmailed ballots for overseas Filipinos workers, whose rights to participate in the election had been curtailed.

Comelec also did not give the LP access to their mirror servers despite the party being a major national political party, Pangilinan said.

The Comelec also did not give the LP the complete list of precincts and areas where there were reported defective vote counting machines (VCMs) and corrupted SD cards even though the party requested the same a number of times during canvassing, he said.

Pangilinan said hundreds of VCMs either malfunctioned or were defective in an election where vote buying was rampant and which practice Duterte called “normal.”