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clip_image002Poll watch group to seek writ of habeas data

By Chit Estella

May 18, 2010

THE Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) said yesterday it would consider asking the Supreme Court to compel the Commission on Elections and Smartmatic to produce documents and other materials needed to determine whether fraud and other irregularities have been committed in the elections.

The proposal to apply for a writ of habeas data was made by lawyer Lorna Kapunan who said the proper remedy for seeking the truth in the May 10 elections is by availing themselves of the judicial process. She recalled that former Chief Justice Reynato Puno had made this option available when military authorities refused to cooperate with Edita Burgos in looking for her missing son, activist Jonas Burgos.

At that time, the option was known as the writ of amparo. In accordance with the principles of that writ, a government agency simply could not simply say, for example, that it does not have the missing person in its custody. The agency will have to use its resources to help look for that person.

In the case of the elections, Kapunan said it would not be enough for the Comelec to just deny the occurrence of fraud. The poll body would have to produce the documents and other materials that would show that there was no fraud.

CenPEG executive director Evita Jimenez said the organization was not as interested in who won in the elections as it is in the process that was followed during the automated polls.

She said a review of the May 10 elections by an independent citizens’ body and by a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee in the new administration would be important in assuring that future elections would be transparent and credible.

She expressed the fear that “the documents will be gone” and that CF cards would be destroyed in the name of “national interest.”

Suspicion of fraud arose following “a significant number of incidents all over the country” as monitored by CenPEG:

The malfunctioning, shutdown and destruction of PCOS machines, non-functioning compact flash (CF) cards, paper jams and power outages in certain areas

Failure of transmission from some clustered precincts, forcing Boards of Election Inspectors to resort to manual transmission by taking the CF cards and PCOS machines to the municipal canvassing centers

Delayed canvassing and random manual audits (RMAs) in many areas with the results of completed RMAs still undisclosed.

CenPEG estimated that as many as 15 percent of voters were disenfranchised because of alleged poor voting management procedures, technical breakdowns, transmission failures, delayed canvassing and RMAs that became vulnerable to tampering.

The organization also pointed out that even before the elections, the automated election system had already been stripped of the safeguards that were mandated by the election law and by minimum industry standards.

CenPEG had urged the Comelec to review the source code to make sure that the voters’ verifiability feature was functioning, to post the digitally signed precinct election returns (ER), and to ensure that the private keys would be generated solely by the BEIs. These, however, were ignored by the Comelec, said CenPEG.

Pablo Manalastas, senior fellow of CenPEG, said by posting the digitally signed precinct ERs, voters would have been assured that the returns have not been changed.

Bobby Tuazon, CenPEG director for advocacy and policy studies, said by transferring the secret keys from the BEIs to Smartmatic, the Comelec had already committed a violation. Such an act, he said, could lead to interval rigging.

Lito Averia, information technology consultant for CenPEG, said the transfer of the keys from the teachers who constituted the BEI was itself “a big security issue.”

Temario Rivera, a political scientist and vice chair of CenPEG, said that if any cheating had been done, this could have been through the CF cards. At the same time, he said the fraud could have only been perpetrated by persons with the resources to do this, namely the administration.

When asked why the turnout for national positions, particularly the presidency, had favored the opposition despite the alleged occurrence of fraud, Rivera said an interesting theory would be that the cheating was aimed at the lower positions, namely the House of Represenatives and other local positions.

The press conference was also attended by some candidates who were faring badly in the poll count. Former senator Francisco Tatad said he plans to seek the nullification of the entire election results and to sue the Comelec commissioners.

But another participant in the press con said Homobono Adaza had already beaten Tatad to that. Adaza yesterday has reportedly filed a case in the Ombudsman against the Comelec commissioners. On Friday, he would be petitioning for the annulment of election results.

From Vera Files, (http://verafiles.org/2010/05/18/poll-watch-group-to-seek-writ-of-habeas-data/)

 

 

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