Comelec asks SC to allow 'back up' of files amid Marcos case

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections urged the Supreme Court (SC) to authorize a Comelec department to "back up" the files in SD memory cards used for vote-counting machines (VCMs) in the May 9 polls. 

The Comelec also wants the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to allow the backing up of the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS) laptops of all towns, cities, and provinces in the previous elections.

Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim, the poll body's steering committee head for the May 9 elections, made this appeal in a letter to the PET on August 10. 

This appeal is related to the protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr against Vice President Leni Robredo. 

This comes after the Marcos camp questioned the Comelec for granting the request of one of its directors "to back up the files in the SD cards and CCS laptop units that were used during the May 9, 2016 elections."

The Marcos camp said the Comelec en banc, or the commission sitting as a whole, granted its director’s request on July 12. 

On the same day, the PET approved a resolution ordering the Comelec to protect and safeguard all election paraphernalia related to Marcos' protest against Robredo. 

The PET, however, released this two-page resolution granting Marcos’ request for a Precautionary Protection Order (PPO) only on August 2.

Marcos camp questions 'stripping'

Responding to Lim’s request, the PET on Tuesday, August 16, "directed the Comelec to send a copy of its August 10, 2016, letter to the parties within a non-extendible period of 5 days."

The tribunal also "required the parties to submit their comment on the Comelec’s letter within a period of 10 days from receipt of the letter."

In his letter, Lim requested the PET to issue an order, which, among other things, authorizes the Comelec Election Records and Statistics Department "to back up the contents of the VCM SD cards of all 92,509 clustered precincts, and the CCS laptops of all municipalities, cities, and provinces, covered under the instant PPO."

Lim also urged the PET to authorize Comelec and technology provider Smartmatic to "immediately conduct the…closure/stripping activities for all the VCM and CCS kits, including the immediate disposal of the VCM external batteries."

"Stripping" refers to the disabling of election-related machines that began last July 16. 

Marcos spokesman Vic Rodriguez earlier told reporters: "We are not saying that, by stripping, the data will be changed, but really we are saying: Why did the Comelec make this order when there was already a protection order by the PET to preserve all those used in the last elections?" – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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