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Poll critics file complaint against 11 Comelec officials

(Updated 6:06 p.m., June 11) Various poll watchdogs on Monday filed with the Office of the Ombudsman a complaint against 11 former and current Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials for allegedly "placing in grave peril the sanctity of the ballot" during the May 2010 and 2013 elections.

The accused officials are former Comelec chairperson Jose Melo, former commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer, Armando Velasco and Leonardo Leonida.

The other respondents in the complaint are Director Jose Tolentino and Bartolome Sinocruz Jr.; Melo consultant Renato Garcia; Technical Evaluation Committee chairperson Denis Villorente and the committee members Ferdinand De Leon and Reynaldo Sy.

Officials of Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp., the provider of the ballot-reading precinct count optical scan machines, were implicated, as well, including Smartmatic Asia president Cesar Flores.

"This citizen’s action... being filed to hold into account public officers at the COMELEC who, in collusion with local and foreign business interests, placed in grave peril the sanctity of the ballot in the Philippines by approving the use of a highly-suspect... PCOS [machine] in,the [2010 and 2013] elections," according to the complainants' statement.

The complainants are: former vice president Teofisto Guingona Jr., Automated Elections System Watch co-convenor Fr. Jose Dizon, NBN-ZTE deal whistleblower Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada Jr., Workers’ Electoral Watch convenor Anna Leah Escresa-Colina, Gregorio Fabros of Kontra Daya, Center for People Empowerment in Governance executive director Evita Jimenez, and a certain Hector Barrios.

The complainants are allied with the Comelec's staunchest critic, the Automated Elections System Watch.
"Kung ang isang prosesong mali, ginawa mong automatic, pinabilis mo lang ang pagkakamali," Lozada, an IT expert, said in a report Tuesday on GMA News Tv's News To Go.


Among the alleged violations committed by the Comelec and Smartmatic were:

- Contract with Smartmatic pushed through despite the fact that Smartmatic's license agreement with PCOS technology owner Dominion Voting Systems has expired

- No pilot testing of PCOS machine was conducted as mandated by law

- Source code was not open for review

- Comelec failed to ensure that Smartmatic placed the required telecommunication facilities to support PCOS transmissions for the May 2010 elections

- Comelec and Smartmatic failed to ensure the accuracy of the PCOS machines

For their part, Smartmatic Asia president Cesar Flores said the complainants had earlier brought these “slanderous accusations” to the SC twice, and they were rejected.

“In both cases, the Supreme Court denied their allegations and held the contract as valid and compliant with the laws,” Flores said in a text message.

Another respondent to the complaint, retired poll commissioner Rene Sarmiento, shared Flores' stance, saying the petitioners' complaint is no longer relevant.
"Had the complainants reviewed these decisions, they would realize the mootness of the issues they are now raising," Sarmiento said in a text message.
According to a 2009 SC ruling Roque vs. Comelec, pilot testing of election equipment is not specifically required under the Poll Automation Law; and that the Comelec has ensured that the PCOS machines are compliant with the minimum standards as mandated by the law.
Meanwhile, poll commissioner Lucenito Tagle said it is the poll critics' “prerogative if they want to file cases.” “Whether it will prosper is another thing,” he added in a text message.

He maintained that the 2013 elections was a success.
Likewise, Sarmiento said that "other countries and election management bodies commended the process and results of the said elections."
"The 2010 elections were generally successful... So time to move on," he said. — DVM/RSJ, GMA News