By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed three petitions which challenged several safety features of the country’s automated elections particularly on source code review, voter verification, and random audit.
Aside from declaring the petitions moot and academic as they involved the 2013 and 2016 elections, the SC ruled that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) have come up with various resolutions to address the issues raised in the petitions.
Dismissed were the petitions filed by Sen. Richard Gordon and poll watchdog Bagumbayan-VNP Movement, Inc. and Tanggulang Demokrasya through Evelyn I. Kilayko, Teresita D. Baltazar, Pilar L. Calderon, Elita T. Montilla, and Andrea H. Cedo on the source code provided under Republic Act No. 9369 (Automatic Election System Law) that amended the Election Modernization Act of 1997.
At the same time, the SC dismissed the plea of petitions to cite in contempt then Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. for his alleged failure during the May 8, 2013 oral arguments to, among other things, make the source code available for review and to grant more time to the parties to comply with the requirements to do so.
A summary released by the SC’s public information office (PIO) of the decision written by Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes Jr. stated:
“The Court took judicial notice of Comelec Resolution No. 10423 promulgated on Sept. 21, 2018, modifying the qualifications for the source code review for the 2019 elections as well as providing for several steps before an interested party may actually get around to reviewing the source code.
“’As this Resolution No. 10423 governs the conduct of the (2019) elections and any automated election from here on unless it, itself, is superseded by another, the cause of action of the petitioners has ceased to exist.’
“As was the case in the discussion of the source code, the SC noted the recent promulgation of Resolution No. 10458 (General Instructions for the conduct of Random Manual Audit relative to the 13 May 2019 Automated National and Local Elections and subsequent elections thereafter), on December 5, 2018, Resolution No. 10460, or the General
Instructions on the constitution, composition and appointment of the Electoral Board; use of the Vote Counting Machines; the process of testing and sealing of the Vote Counting Machines; and the voting, counting and transmission of election results, on December 6, 2018, and Resolution No. 10487, or the VCM Operation procedures for (A) Final Testing and Sealing (FTS) (B) Election Day and (C) Transmission of Election Results in connection with the 13 May 2019 National and Local Elections, on January 23, 2019 (Resolution No. 10487, in particular, supplanted Resolution No. 10460) .
“The SC ruled that ‘ the promulgation of these removes the justiciable controversy existing in the consolidated petitions especially as it is these resolutions that now govern the conduct of the specific items being assailed.’
“Regardless, the SC held that the electronic transmission through the method promulgated by the Comelec is valid under the law, citing the Rules on Electronic Evidence.”
On Brillantes, the SC said: ”In deciding that Chairman Brillantes is not liable for indirect contempt, the Court focuses solely on the undertakings that were directly promised to the Court, not those which the petitioner feels were promised.”