^

Headlines

SC: Digital copies of ballots acceptable in poll protests

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Digital images of ballots are considered official evidence and may be used in resolving electoral disputes, the Supreme Court (SC) said.

The high court made this ruling Monday as it dismissed a petition filed by former Internal Revenue commissioner Liwayway Vinzons-Chato questioning the ruling of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) that junked her protest against Camarines Norte Rep. Elmer Panotes of the second district.

In a 20-page decision released last Monday, the SC held Republic Act 9369, or the Election Automation Law defined “official ballot” as the “paper ballot, whether printed or generated by the technology applied, that faithfully captures or represents the votes cast” in the automated election system.

In affirming HRET’s findings, the SC said that while the May 10, 2010 polls used a paper-based technology, “each voter was then required to personally feed his ballot into the (precinct count optical scan or PCOS) machine which scanned both sides of the ballots simultaneously, meaning, in just one pass.”

“As established during the required demo tests, the system captured the images of the ballots in encrypted format, which, when decrypted for verification, were found to be digitized representations of the ballots cast,” stated the ruling penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

The high court also agreed with both the HRET and Panotes that “the picture images of the ballots, as scanned and recorded by the PCOS, are likewise official ballots that faithfully capture in electronic form the votes cast by the voter, as defined by Section 2(3) of RA No. 9369.”

“As such, the printouts thereof are the functional equivalent of the paper ballots filled out by the voters and, thus, may be used for purposes of revision of votes in an electoral protest,” the SC said.

In her petition, Chato said the HRET lacked legal basis in directing the copying of ballots to be used in her electoral protest against Panotes. Chato lost by 3,882 votes to Panotes in the 2010 elections.

Since the 2010 Automated Election System was paper-based, Chato argued the official ballot is the paper ballot printed by the National Printing Office or the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas under RA 9369.

But the SC ruled that Chato erred in saying that an electronic document is supposed to only be generated by a virtual or paperless document, as it can also be “received, stored or retrieved electronically.”

In the case of the AES, the ballot’s transmission to the PCOS machine is an electronic process, so is the decryption of the images of the ballots.

Chato pointed out in her petition that a fax machine works in the same way that a PCOS machine scans the ballots – therefore, a facsimile transmission is the same as the pictures of the ballots.

The SC disagreed with Chato’s argument, saying that, unlike in a facsimile transmission, there is a process of encryption and decryption in compact flash (CF) cards.

The SC added that even if the CF cards may have been tampered with, the HRET conducted a preliminary hearing in May 2011 where Chato failed to present sufficient proof that the integrity of the CF cards had been compromised.

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE ESTELA PERLAS-BERNABE AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM BALLOTS BANGKO SENTRAL CAMARINES NORTE REP CHATO ELECTION AUTOMATION LAW ELMER PANOTES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL PANOTES
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

FORGOT PASSWORD?
SIGN IN
or sign in with