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Complaint filed vs. Comelec before UN body

(Updated 6:10 p.m.) A group of individuals has filed a complaint with a United Nations body accusing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of depriving them of their right to suffrage. At a press briefing Friday, lawyer Harry Roque Jr., who is representing the complainants, said the move was their last-ditch effort to “remedy” what he described as a “hopeless” situation regarding the country's electoral system. “Kaya po kami nagpunta sa UN, wala na pong pag-asa rito sa Pilipinas,” Roque said. “Ako po ay nagtuturo ng constitutional law at international law... at ang palagi kong sinasabi, kapag mayroong paglabag ng karapatan, mayroon pong remedyo.” The complaint was filed with the UN Human Rights Committee (UNRC). “Kung ang ating mga hukuman po ay hindi magbibigay ng remedyo, asahan po natin sa larangan ng international law, mayroon po tayong kahit papaanong remedyong makukuha,” Roque said. Publicity stunt? Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. was unfazed, as he described the filing of the complaint as a publicity stunt. “It is a publicity stunt on their part, whoever they are. Kasi hindi na sila manalo rito sa Supreme Court, kung saan-saan na sila nagpupupunta,” he told reporters.
At the same time, Brillantes said he cannot understand how a foreign association or organization can interfere with local elections.
“Ok na rin sa akin yung tumakbo sila sa UN, maski saan sa buong mundo. Hindi ko lang maintindihan kung paano makikialam ang foreign association, organization in a local election,” he said.
Asked what he will do with the complaint, Brillantes said he will just ignore it because [Election Day] is too close for the poll pody to be sidetracked.
“Officially wala (ng gagawin). Hindi na lang namin pansinin. We are too close to elections para pansinin and AES Watch, yung reklamo nila sa abroad,” he said.
Brillantes had previously dared his detractors to file an impeachment case against him. Among the complainants were members of self-described anti-fraud groups like Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) and the Automated Election System (AES) Watch. ICCPR Their complaint was based on Article 25 of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in which the Philippines is party to. According to that Article, “Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in Article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions: a. To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; b. To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors; c. To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.” According to the complainants, their right to free expression of their will as electors was violated by the Philippine government when it relinquished control of the automated elections’ technical aspects and gave control of public and private keys to all precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to technology provider Smartmatic. The absence of a review of source codes used in the May 2010 elections was also a violation raised by the complainants. Intimidation, threats In a statement, AES Watch said one of the “most compelling reasons” the case was raised to the UN was because of “veiled threats and irresponsible accusations by the Comelec.” “Instead of listening to the legitimate complaints and proposals of independent anti-fraud and poll watch groups, the Comelec resorts to undue intimidation and threats,” the group said. If the UN decides to side with the complainants, Roque said the Philippines, being a party to the ICCPR, has no choice but to heed the international body. “Sasabihin po (ng UNHRC) sa ating buong pamahalaan, hindi lang sa Comelec, na kinakailangan itigil niyo yang paglabag ninyo sa karapatan na nakasaad sa Article 25. At hindi po sila titigil hanggang di po tumigil ang paglabag ng Pilipinas,” Roque said. However, he acknowledges that it will take some time for the UNHRC to decide on their complaint. "Unfortunately matagal 'yan... pero kahit gaano katagal 'yan, dahil sa tingin ko hindi magbabago ang policy ng gobyerno, kinakailangan mayroong nakabinbin, para magkaroon ng pag-asa na magkaroon ng deklarasyon na mayroong paglabag sa karapatang pantao ang paggamit ng PCOS," he added. — with Amita Legaspi/KBK/RSJ, GMA News