CA to hear petition vs Comelec’s use of P30-M intel funds today
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) is set to hear today the petition filed by members of a poll watchdog earlier this month questioning the alleged surveillance being conducted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on critics using its P30-million intelligence fund.

In a two-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Edwin Sorsogon, the appellate court directed petitioners from Automated Election System (AES) Watch and respondents led by Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. to appear before a summary hearing in Paras Hall at 10 a.m.

The CA set the hearing pursuant to the writ of habeas data issued by the Supreme Court (SC) last week. Habeas data is a legal remedy that is meant to protect the image, privacy and freedom of information of a person, which can be used to find out what information is being held about a citizen.

Petitioners led by former Comelec commissioner Augusto Lagman, UP law professor Harry Roque Jr. and whistleblower Rodolfo Lozada Jr. also questioned the legality of Comelec’s use of the intelligence fund.

They said it is unconstitutional because it stems from a misalignment of public funds by the Office of the President to a supposedly independent constitutional commission.

They also argued it violates the right of citizens to free expression and the right to privacy.

Apart from issuance of an order stopping Comelec’s surveillance of its critics, petitioners also asked the SC to order the poll body to disclose any information they have on them and “permanently suppress, destroy or permanently seal” these information.

They alleged the “illegally gathered information are being used to prosecute critics of the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) automated elections technology for election sabotage and other applicable offenses or crimes.”

In the meantime, the petitioners asked the SC to bar the respondents from further collecting information or conducting surveillance on the petitioners, as well issuing statements that “threaten” them with surveillance or prosecution for alleged election sabotage.

Named respondents were Chairman Brillantes and Commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph, Christian Robert Lim, Luie Tito Guia, Grace Padaca, Al Parreño, Comelec finance director Dulay Mejos, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., and deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

It was the AES Watch that had also asked the SC last April 10 to reject the P1.8-billion contract signed by the Comelec to use the PCOS machines for the May 13 midterm elections, which, like the 2010 elections, were automated.

But the high court dismissed their petition last month, ruling that the contract was aboveboard. 

ABIGAIL VALTE AL PARRE ASSOCIATE JUSTICE EDWIN SORSOGON AUGUSTO LAGMAN AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM CHAIRMAN BRILLANTES AND COMMISSIONERS LUCENITO TAGLE CHRISTIAN ROBERT LIM COMELEC COMELEC CHAIRMAN SIXTO BRILLANTES JR. COURT OF APPEALS
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