Senate bill sponsored by Marcos would see return to âfraud-proneâ polls â election lawyer
File photo shows defeated vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos and his sister, Imee.
The STAR/Edd Gumban, File

Senate bill sponsored by Marcos would see return to ‘fraud-prone’ polls — election lawyer

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - December 15, 2020 - 5:23pm

MANILA, Philippines — An election lawyer on Monday warned against a bill at the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Imee Marcos, proposing a "hybrid" election system which would involve manual vote counting at the precinct level. 

“If we were to regress to the fraud-prone manual system this 2022, anyone who will run in opposition to the government will never have the fighting chance,” election lawyer Emil Marañon III said on Twitter, further criticizing Marcos for openly pushing "the return to manual counting." 

Marañon, through a series of tweets on November 29, was the first to publicize a "dangerous" insertion in the 2021 budget that would have waived election procurement safeguards for the upcoming national polls.

While he did not identify his sources or the lawmaker responsible, the Inquirer on Sunday reported that three sources from the House of Representatives and the Senate confirmed that it was Marcos who inserted the clandestine provision which Marañon said disregarded automated election law. 

Before the report surfaced, Marcos herself said the provision would set a "very, very dangerous precedent" during an interview with CNN Philippines on November 30. 

Her brother, former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is in the middle of a long-running poll protest before the Supreme Court against Vice President Leni Robredo who beat him in the 2016 elections.

Fraud-free elections?

Senate Bill No. 1950 or the Hybrid Election Act seeks the implementation of an election process that would be a "combination of the automated election system and the manual election system to ensure transparency and credibility of the electoral processes." 

Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation, endorsed the bill for plenary approval on Monday, citing the alleged "lack of transparency" in the current voting system. The bill reconciles earlier versions written by Marcos and Senate President Tito Sotto. 

According to Marcos, counting votes manually at the precinct level will "ensure that all vote counting is held in full public view, and is open to video recording and live-streaming for future fact-checking." 

She further argued that the need for Random Manual Audit (RMA) under the automated election system "points to its lack of transparency in reading ballots." 

"How do we know that our votes are counted correctly by a fully automated election system?" Marcos questioned Monday. 

READ: What is the Random Manual Audit? Comelec commissioner explains

But, in June 2019, the Commission on Elections reported that vote counting machines (VCMs) posted the highest and almost perfect accuracy rate in the last midterm polls. 

A preliminary report from Comelec's RMA committee showed a 99.9953% accuracy rate of the VCMs —the highest VCM accuracy rate since the country adopted computerized elections in 2010.

Despite this record rate of accuracy, President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019 told the poll body to nix Smartmatic as its election provider and opt for one that is "free of fraud."

In August 2019, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that the 2022 elections "will be run entirely" by Duterte's appointees, including its chairman Sheriff Abas. — with reports from Christian Deiparine and The STAR

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