Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Artemio Panganiban listed the three things the Commission on Elections (Comelec) must do in ensuring clean and honest elections.
Panganiban wrote about this on his March 27, 2016 column on the Inquirer in reaction to the Supreme Court ruling ordering the Comelec to implement the voter verification system in the vote-counting machines (VCM) in the form of voters’ receipts.
The Comelec initially opposed voters’ receipts over fears that it might tolerate vote-buying. But the high court ruled that the automated elections law is clear about a paper-based voters verification system, provided that these voters’ receipts are deposited in a box and not taken out of the precincts after voting.
In his column, Panganiban said that besides the implementation of the voters’ receipts, the Comelec “would be well-advised, in the interest of ensuring credible elections, to undertake other electoral measures” which the past Comelec officials were not able to address.
Panganiban advised the Comelec to proclaim the winners of the elections only after a “complete, correct and credible count of the official certificates of canvass (COC).”
Panganiban took exemption of the actions of the Comelec under then chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. during the 2013 midterm elections when the senatorial winners were proclaimed based on the group canvass report even though only 72 of the 304 COCs were canvassed.
In his May 18, 2013 column, Panganiban touted the proclamation of winners in the 2013 elections as “premature, imprudent and illegal” because the law clearly states that the winners can only be proclaimed after the votes have been officially canvassed.
Panganiban said the 72 COCs which were canvassed in proclaiming six new senators only represented 13 million of the country’s 52 million registered voters, which means “the unreported votes are several times more than the canvassed votes.”
“Baseless and premature proclamations should never be repeated, especially during the presidential election in 2016. Otherwise, they could destabilize and bring unintended consequences on our democracy,” Panganiban then said.
The former magistrate also said the current Comelec should allow a through review of the source code, even though the source code is protected in a vault in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
“Nonetheless, questions still linger because it was not reviewed prior to the deposit,” Panganiban said.
Finally, the former justice urged the Comelec to “Implement the random manual audit strictly in accordance with law.”