MANILA, Philippines – For once, they agreed on one thing.
Presidential candidates rejected the possibility floated by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that it could postpone the May 9 polls due to a recent ruling of the Supreme Court (SC).
The SC ordered the Comelec to issue voting receipts in the upcoming elections.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said these scenarios could force the poll body to move the elections to the first week of June.
Presidential front runner Senator Grace Poe had the strongest words against this possibility.
“Kalokohan ‘yan,” Poe said. (That’s foolishness.)
Poe said she fears a repeat of the “Hello Garci” scandal of 2004 if the Comelec postpones the elections or holds manual polls.
In the “Hello Garci” scandal, the media exposed the wiretapped conversations supposedly between then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and then elections commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano, suggesting fraud in the 2004 elections.
Arroyo won against her closest rival, Poe’s father, actor Fernando Poe Jr, in the presidential race of 2004.
“Natatakot lamang ako na kapag mag-manual tayo uli o kung ma-postpone ang elections, baka mamaya mamayagpag na naman ang mga katulad ng mga ‘Garci’ na nangyari noon,” Poe said.
(I’m just afraid that if we go manual again or if the elections are postponed, the likes of “Garci” would proliferate again, which is what happened before.)
Poe said she is confident that the Comelec has enough time to prepare to issue voting receipts.
'Many cases' seen vs Comelec
If the Comelec postpones the elections, Poe said there might be “many cases” filed because the election schedule is written in the Constitution.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, another presidential candidate, also criticized the Comelec.
He said the law requires voting receipts, but the Comelec failed to prepare for this.
“Sila ang may kasalanan nu’n. Simple naman ‘yon. Kung ikaw ang chairman, at may batas talaga iyan, ano ang gagawin natin? Pero kailangan gawan mo ng solusyon,” Binay said.
(That’s their fault. That’s simple. If you were the chairman, and that’s in the law, what will we do? But we really have to come up with a solution.)
Like Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte also blamed the Comelec for this problem.
“That is the problem of the Comelec because those are the safety measures guaranteed for transparency,” he said.
He pointed out that the law put these security measures in place “to avoid doubts in the result of the elections.”
The administration standard-bearer, Manuel Roxas II, has not commented on the issue reportedly because he has not been asked by reporters about this.
Presidential candidate Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago also hasn’t issued a statement on the issue. Santiago's running mate, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, said he “can’t help but think we are being led to a set-up” of election fraud.
The Comelec said it is ready to demonstrate the "practical, operational, and technical issues" that make it difficult to print voting receipts. – with reports from Camille Elemia, Mara Cepeda, Pia Ranada, and Patty Pasion/Rappler.com
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 email@example.com.