flash cards

Comelec mulls sanctions vs Smartmatic for foul-ups

Comelec mulls sanctions vs Smartmatic for foul-ups

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is considering penalizing poll machine supplier Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) for the glitches in the automated election system that will be used during the May 10 polls.

In a chance interview with reporters, Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal admitted that the poll body is thinking of how it can make the technology provider “pay” for its recent foul-ups.

The commissioner issued the statement after some precinct count optical scan (PCOS) units tested last Monday failed to read some votes accurately, forcing them to pull out and replace all the compact flash (CF) cards. (See: Some poll machines fail to read votes accurately)

On Tuesday, Smartmatic Asia president Cesar Flores admitted that they were at fault for “human error” in the configuration of the CF cards. (See: Smartmatic assumes responsibility for PCOS machine glitches)

Larrazabal refused to divulge, however, whether the possible penalty for the supplier would be monetary or otherwise.

“Those who are liable will be held liable. Those who are negligent will be held accountable. But for now, let us work together to ensure that the elections will work on May 10, 2010,” he said at a separate press briefing.

Poll body spokesperson James Jimenez likewise said that they have to focus first on the task at hand. “First order of business is to get this going… best to get the elections over and done with and then settle accounts,” he told GMANews.TV in a text message.

He said that there is still time later to thoroughly discuss what Smartmatic’s liabilities are.

Earlier in the day, Commission on Human Rights chair Leila de Lima said that the technology provider can be made to answer in case of failure of elections “theoretically and hypothetically.”

She added that if their offense qualifies as electoral sabotage in the highest degree, they might even face life imprisonment. She even said that the CHR is willing to pursue the case should the situation call for it.

Flores, for his part, said that their company is “committed” to the success of the elections. He likewise said that they have no plans of abandoning the automation project.

“I also offered Comelec to take my passport, I’m more than willing to surrender it,” he said on Thursday. —JV, GMANews.TV

Gordon clarifies statement, says he won't back out from prexy race

Gordon clarifies statement, says he won’t back out from prexy race

Presidential candidate Richard Gordon on Thursday clarified his earlier statement that he was willing to quit the presidential race and run the Commission on Elections himself to ensure the success of the May 10 polls.

In an interview with GMA News’ Arnold Clavio, Gordon — the main proponent of the automation law— said he was merely goading the poll officials to get their jobs right.

Inuudyukan ko lang na gawin niyo ang trabaho niyo para matapos yan. Hindi naman dapat mahirapan ang Comelec sa nangyayari (I’m just goading you to do your job and finish it. Comelec shouldn’t find this situation difficult),” Gordon said.

Last Monday some Precinct Count Optical System (PCOS) units tested failed to read test ballots accurately, forcing the Comelec to pull out all the compact flash (CF) cards from their respective voting machines and move quickly to replace the cards with reconfigured ones.

In reaction to the technical problems, Gordon said: “Let’s make it work. If Comelec can’t do it, I will withdraw from the race and run the elections.” (See: Gordon open to defer May 10 polls)

Meanwhile, the Bagumbayan standard bearer urged the public to remain vigilant and ask the Comelec to release poll results on the evening of May 10, and not three days after the polls.

Kapag three days hindi na automated yan. Pag matagal, may salamangka diyan (If it takes three days, then that’s no longer automated. If it’s that long, there’s already magic going on),” he said, adding that the main reason for automating the elections was to quickly count the votes to avert poll fraud.

He also rejected anew the proposals to conduct a parallel manual count of the votes on May 10, saying it is expensive.

Those who are proposing for a manual count should be the ones to shell out money, he said.—JV, GMANews.TV

Malacañang: No military takeover in case of total failure of polls

Malacañang: No military takeover in case of total failure of polls

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s spokesman assured Thursday that Malacañang will not order the military to intervene in case of a total failure of the automated elections.

“Mangyari man iyon ay there are are available remedies sa Comelec, sa korte at Kongreso. May mga remedies na available (Assuming it happens (total failure of elections), there are available remedies available in the Comelec (Commission on Elections), the courts and in Congress. There are available remedies),” deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said in an interview over ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda.

Olivar said Malacañang is confident that a total failure of elections will not ignite a high level of unrest that “needs military intervention.”

He also reiterated that President Arroyo will step down as scheduled on June 30 even if the new president is not immediately proclaimed because of the failure of the elections.

Despite fears of a complete failure of the automated polls, Olivar said Malacañang is taking the Comelec’s word that it will push through on May 10.

He said he had received an advisory that Comelec has already made an assurance that all compact flashcards needed for the automated polls will be ready “a few hours before elections.”

The Comelec, on the hand, had said that it is also banking on the promise of the Smartmatic-TIM that there is enough time to finish reconfiguring all the flashcards in time for the elections.

Mass Comelec resignation

Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, who admits he does not know the technical details of the automated election system, said the poll body “thinks” it can push through with the elections on May 10 because of assurances by the Smartmatic-TIM.

If not all of the flashcards are reconfigured on time, Tagle said automated elections in far-flung areas might not push through. He assured that the Comelec is ready to hold special elections in far-flung areas.

He added that all Comelec commissioners, including their chairman, Jose Melo, are willing to resign if the automated elections completely fail.

“Kung talagang palpak at walang magawa at may complete failure of elections ay magre-resign kami (If the automated elections completely fail we will resign),” Tagle said.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal told ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda in a separate interview that the holding of special elections is in violation of the Synchronized National and Local Elections Law.

Macalintal insisted that the Comelec should just postpone the elections for 15 days, which would be enough for the ultimate testing of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) voting and counting machines.

“So we can test the PCOS machines not only for the counting of votes, but also for transmission,” the lawyer insisted.

Macalintal has resigned as President Arroyo’s election lawyer because Malacañang is against his proposal to postpone the automated elections.

Poll watchdogs fear high-tech cheating

Poll watchdogs fear high-tech cheating

MANILA, Philippines – Two election watchdogs warned Thursday that the May 10 elections could be the target of high-tech cheating after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) admitted that there was no more time to check the contents of 76,000 newly configured flash cards.

Election watchdogs Transparentelections.org and  Automated Elections System Watch said the new flash cards being configured by poll machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM should be subjected to public scrutiny, particularly by IT people.

IT expert Augusto Lagman of Transparentelections.org said the machine vendor, or an erring programmer hired by the company, can easily pad and shave votes through the flash cards.

“You can do dagdag-bawas (vote padding and shaving) with that.You can give instructions [to the flash cards or the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines]. It’s just like a computer, that’s why you have to trust the administrators and the vendors,” he told ABS-CBN.

Alfred Pascual of AES Watch said his group warned the Comelec about the possibility of high-tech, massive cheating in the automated election system because of the time constraints imposed on the poll body to prepare for Monday’s elections.

“We have highlighted that the flashcards are the most vulnerable in this elections. [We should] check what’s in the flash cards. What if there are pre-recorded images in the flash cards?” he said.

He said that aside from an audit of the configuration of the flash cards, concerned groups should also be allowed to witness or physically monitor the cards when they are installed to avoid switching.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez on Thursday said the new programmed compact flash cards, which experts said can be a tool for high-tech vote padding and shaving, would not be open to the public for scrutiny.

“The configuration should be open to the public at some point, but right now, I don’t think there will be enough time to show it anyway,” Jimenez told ANC’s Headstart.

Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM are racing against time to configure 76,000 flash cards by Friday morning or just 3 days before the May 10 national and local automated elections.

Comelec ordered a nationwide recall of all flash cards of the PCOS machines after the machines failed to read votes cast for local candidates during field testing on Monday.

Pre-programmed cheating

Pascual, meanwhile, rejected a proposal to postpone the elections to give Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM more time to fix the glitches. “To give more them more time would mean giving them more time to probably commit more errors,” he said.

He said that from the start, his group had noticed that Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM were doing a “trial-and-error” approach in the automation project.

“What is happening is that Filipino voters are becoming unwilling participants in this very expensive experiment. I call this a heuristic exercise, a trial and error exercise,” Pascual said.

He said that when the Comelec awarded the automated project to Smartmatic-TIM, the contract specified that voters can just place a simple X mark with a pen or a pencil on the ovals corresponding to the candidates’ names.

He said Smartmatic-TIM failed to meet the specified mark since voters are being advised to fully shade the ovals for their votes to be counted by the PCOS machines.

Pascual said he could not understand why Smarmatic-TIM failed to identify the latest glitch since they have already conducted a number of field tests and mock elections.

He said that with all the glitches, the Comelec should reconsider a proposal to hold a parallel manual counting of the votes.

Jimenez, for his part, admitted that Comelec has not prepared for a total manual count because they are only prepared for a 30% manual count as part of their contingency plan.

“It can be done, yes. That is up to the en banc to decide, but right now there is no reason for that,” he said, when asked if they are preparing for a 100% manual count.

Smartmatic execs told: Surrender passports

Smartmatic execs told: Surrender passports

MANILA, Philippines – The Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) on Thursday urged foreign officials and employees of Smartmatic involved in the election automation project to send their passports to a Catholic bishop.

“We are calling in your bluff. Give us all your passports,” CCM co-convenor lawyer Harry Roque said in a statement.

Roque said his group will turn over the passports to Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz for safekeeping. He said Smartmatic Southeast Asia president Cesar Flores and other Smartmatic officials can send their passports to Cruz’s office at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines compound at 470 Gen. Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila.

“The Venezuelans behind Smartmatic, like us Filipinos, are predominantly Catholics. Surely, they can trust Archbishop Cruz to return their passports should there be no reason later to ensure their stay in the country,” CCM co-convenor Betina Legarda said.

Flores on Wednesday said he and other Smartmatic officials are willing to surrender their passports as an assurance that they will not flee the country amid massive glitches in the election automation process.

“If you want my passport, you can hold it in escrow,” Flores said during a press conference at the Commission on Elections’ main office in Manila.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal assured that the automated elections will push through on May 10. At least 76,000 flashcards were recalled by Comelec after PCOS machines failed to read votes for local candidates during Monday’s supposed final testing.

Flores has assured that Smartmatic-TIM will finish configuring flash cards for all PCOS machines by Friday morning. He said Smartmatic-TIM may also recycle some of the recalled flash cards if the shipments do not arrive on time.

Comelec officials, meanwhile, said if the configuration is not finished by May 10, the poll body can hold special elections in affected areas.

ARMM, other provinces may not get flash cards on time

ARMM, other provinces may not get flash cards on time
By Ryan Chua

MANILA, Philippines – Problems in the country’s first ever nationwide automated elections continued to mount Thursday as officials confirmed that clustered precincts in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other provinces may only get compact flash cards for automated voting machines on Election Day itself.

Smartmatic Southeast Asia President Cesar Flores said more than 30,000 new memory cards have been reconfigured, tested and are ready for deployment. He added that new memory cards were shipped out to Antique, Bohol, Capiz, Guimaras, Abra, Batanes, Quirino, Makati, Parañaque, Marikina, Batangas, and Palawan Wednesday night.

He admitted, however, that the reconfigured memory cards might not be able to reach 5% of the country  on time due to security and logistical challenges. He said the worst that can happen is that the memory cards will arrive in the polling centers on Election Day itself.

This includes all municipalities in Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Basilan, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Misamis Occidental, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur. Other places where the flash cards will be delayed are Toboso, Negros Occidental; Divilacan, Maconaco and Palanan in Isabela; Calayan, Cagayan; and Baliguian, Sibuco, Siocon and Sirawai in Zamboanga del Norte.

Flores said delays in the delivery of the flash cards means that the voting machines will not be ready by May 10 since they first have to be tested and sealed. However, the voting process will still continue as stated in the continuity plan of the Commission on Elections.

What will happen is that voters will still fill up their ballots but will not be allowed to insert their ballots into the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. Instead, the boards of election inspectors will collect the ballots,  store them in the ballot box and wait for the new memory cards to arrive.

Upon receipt of the cards, the BEIs need to install them into the PCOS machines, test the machines and seal the memory cards. Once all preliminary procedures are done, the BEIs will feed all accomplished ballots to the machine for automated counting and transmission.

Flores said the new memory cards must be tested first and the machines sealed before they are used for counting and transmission.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo ruled out a proposal to revert to a manual count and reiterated that the automated nationwide election will push through as scheduled on May 10. He added that if things still go wrong, the Comelec is prepared for manual elections in 30% of the country and that the necessary forms have been printed and are already on standby.

Vulnerable elections (1): Memory cards

Vulnerable elections (1): Memory cards
by Prof. Giovanni Tapang, PhD
Kontra Daya

Posted on 04 May 2010

With the May 2010 presidetial elections coming in only two months, citizens groups have raised their concerns regarding the conduct of the first nationwide automation of our elections. Groups such as the anti-fraud and election monitoring group Kontra Daya have called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to “walk the talk” regarding its claim that all systems are in place for the Automated Election System (AES) and only an earthquake can stop the May 2010 elections.

Other groups are now busy preparing for the monitoring of the conduct of the elections. Yesterday marked the launch of the Project 30-30 of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPeg) and its partner organizations with the European Union. Project 30-30 seeks to mobilize civil society groups and grassroots in monitoring and safeguarding against cheating and fraud with regard to the automated election system. There will be a series of voters’ education and training activities around the country to provide information and knowledge about the elections in general and the AES in particular. During election time, there will be an international observers mission as well as election monitoring watch teams that will be deployed to observe report on the conduct of the elections. Working together with the CenPeg are the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the Council for People’s Development and Governance, the Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU), the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

Even with the involvement of various sectors, there is still much to be worried about. Problems that have cropped up during field tests and mock elections still have to be addressed by the Comelec. There are also the thirty (and more) vulnerabilities that CenPeg and groups like the AESWatch have raised on the conduct and design of the automated election system. Issues like the lack of transparency and the climate of impunity continue to be prevalent in many places in the country.

Memory cards
As mentioned before, the CenPeg has pointed out more than 30 vulnerabilities in the AES. Among these are issues regarding the source code, the integrity of the counting machines and the procedural weaknesses of the AES as currently implemented by the Comelec. We’d like to raise our concern about one more possible vulnerability that has not been thoroughly pointed out in previous analyses of the AES.

In the AES, a Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine reads in the long ballot filled out by a voter. This PCOS machine is equipped with a program (the firmware) to read and tally the votes (supposedly built from an audited and tested source code) and deployed to more than 76,000 clustered precincts nationwide. As each precinct has a different set of local candidates, each of these clustered precincts should be configured differently from the rest.

How will this configuration be accomplished? The PCOS machine has a memory card, specifically a CompactFlash (CF) card, where the data for the local candidates is stored and also where the election data during and after the voting exercise is stored. As such, the first possibility is that the configuration data might be incorrect. Swapping the configuration for one precinct with another will, at the minimum, result in the miscounting of local election results. There should be a way to verify that the configuration files in the memory card is for the correct precinct.

Anybody with a digital camera is familiar with the frailties of the memory cards and the security of their pictures. Pull out the memory card from the camera and your pictures can be corrupted. The same can happen in PCOS machines. The stored files (from the configuration to the results of the elections) can also be corrupted if one pulls the CF card from the machine.

Additional programs and pre-tallied results can also be written unto the CF card before the elections and be executed by the PCOS machine when it is turned on. For many electronic devices such as cameras and cellular phones, using a memory card is how manufacturers update the firmware after the device has already been sold to the customers. The CF card has more than enough space to accommodate more than the data from the count including an errant firmware update or worse, an election result that is already pre-cast for someone to win.

Even if interested groups were allowed to audit and test the source code for the original firmware of the PCOS, we will not be able to check the new firmware’s integrity if it is delivered through the memory cards. The Comelec should provide a way for poll watchers and other interested groups such as Kontra Daya to verify the integrity of the memory cards before they are used in the PCOS machines.

This will be the first of a series of columns on the vulnerabilities related to the Automated Election System. Dr. Tapang is the chairperson of AGHAM. His group was founded in 1999 and is not running in the 2010 elections

Manila prelate 'supports Comelec' amid automation problems

Manila prelate ‘supports Comelec’ amid automation problems

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales on Wednesday expressed support for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) amid the problems being encountered by automated election system.

“We support them with prayer and ask the good Lord to protect them, to guide them,” said Rosales during a prayer session held at the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila on Wednesday.

The archbishop issued the statement after some precinct count optical scan (PCOS) units tested last Monday failed to read test ballots accurately, forcing the Comelec to pull out all the compact flash (CF) cards from their respective voting machines. (See: Some poll machines fail to read votes accurately)

He said that at times like this, everybody should lend a hand so that the elections will push through. “We must support the efforts of the Comelec to ensure the coming elections will be peaceful, orderly, and honest,” he said.

Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, who was also present during the session, said that the public should ask God to help the Comelec fulfill its duty.

“We must always believe that there is a greater power that can make things right,” he said, adding that he believes that the poll body under chairman Jose Melo can pull off the automated elections.

Melo led a prayer for a clean, honest, and orderly elections during the event. – GMANews.TV

Comelec: Machine testing can drag until election day

Comelec: Machine testing can drag until election day
By Reynaldo Santos Jr.

MANILA, Philippines—Election machine manufacturer Smartmatic and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) revealed the possibility of the final sealing and testing of election machines dragging until election day on May 10.

Originally scheduled 3 to 7 days before the election day (from May 3 to 7), the sealing and testing was delayed after the compact flash (CF) cards of the vote counting machines experienced glitches during mock polls in various localities on Monday.

Some CF cards were found to have configuration errors, hence the failure of some precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to accurately read and appropriate votes. Smartmatic halted the nationwide testing since then.

Smartmatic Asia president Cesar Flores told reporters on Wednesday that they have started with the production of CF card replacements. The testing and sealing of machines has since been moved to Thursday until morning of Monday, election day.

Around 76,000 CF cards were recalled and will be replaced with properly-configured cards. Smartmatic, however, purchased 62,000 brand new cards only. Flores explained that the remaining 14,000 will come from recalled cards that will be recycled. Those that won’t undergo recycling will be burned.

Smartmatic expects to finish today configuring around 25,000 new CF cards, which will immediately be shipped tonight. Production of the remaining 51,000 cards is expected to be finished from tomorrow until Friday morning.

Flores said that the cities of Makati, Marikina, and Parañaque, and some areas in the province in Batangas will receive the replacement cards and proceed with the sealing and testing by tomorrow. For other parts of the country, however, replacement cards are expected to arrive and be tested by Friday.

Given the new timeline, arrival and replacement of these new cards can happen as late as Monday morning, just before the election hour starts. Polling precincts are scheduled to open at 7 a.m. on election day. The boards of election inspectors are reporting for work at 6 a.m.

“We have a tighter schedule, that’s the reality of this new development,” Flores revealed. He gave assurances, however, that they are always prepared with backup plans.

Comelec commisioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that they were able to get support from the Air Force and the business sector in terms of logistics. He reported that businessmen committed 10 to 13 helicopters, while the Air Force committed “all their air access.”

As for the new schedule, he said that the extension for sealing and testing is still in line with the election automation law, which requires sealing and testing before the machines begin with its official operation.

“Even morning of May10, it could still be done. What’s important is that all machines will be tested before the elections,” Larazzabal said. (abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak)

Villar, Noynoy warn vs delaying polls

Villar, Noynoy warn vs delaying polls

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential rivals Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party and Sen. Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party on Wednesday opposed proposals to postpone the May 10 polls, saying it may lead to President Gloria Arroyo extending her stay in power or a leadership vacuum.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro also opposed a postponement, calling it “irresponsible” since it had no legal basis.

At least three presidential candidates backed a proposal to postpone the elections despite fears that it may lead to a failure to proclaim a new president before the end of Arroyo’s term on June 30.

Presidential bets Joseph Estrada, Eddie Villanueva and Nick Perlas supported the proposal of Atty. Romulo Macalintal, President Arroyo’s election lawyer, to postpone elections for 2 weeks to allow the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to fix glitches in the automation process.

Villanueva and Perlas said delaying the elections for 2 weeks is necessary to prevent the possible outbreak of violence if there is widespread failure of the May 10 polls.

Villar fears GMA term extension

In a statement, Villar said postponing the elections “could result in bigger problems, including a possible term extension of President Arroyo.” He said the people “cannot allow any term extension for the President.”

If the elections are deferred by 2 weeks as proposed by Arroyo’s election lawyer, Villar warned that the Philippines may plunge into a “political turmoil.”

“Nahihirapan na po ang mga kandidato. Talagang hinihintay na lamang nila ang election. Kung i-extend naman iyan, ewan ko kung papaano tatanggapin ng local officials,” he said in a phone interview with DYHP-Cebu of the Radio Mindanao Network.

“While I hope things will go well with the automated elections, we cannot help but feel anxious about the electoral exercise given the ways things are now unfolding,” Villar said.

Noynoy: No to postponement

Aquino, who is leading in the presidential surveys, on Wednesday pushed for a manual count of the elections and insisted that the voting push through on Monday.

“Elections must push through on Monday, May 10, as mandated by law. Our people want a new leadership,” he said.

“The risk of elections not pushing through at all becomes much greater with a postponement.  It is our sacred obligation to say ‘NO’ to these proposals to postpone elections to a later date. Each postponement increases the possibility of yet another postponement, bringing us closer to a potentially disastrous crisis of a leadership vacuum on June 30,” Aquino added.

The Liberal Party demanded the Comelec begin preparations for a full manual count, which, it believes, can prevent a total failure of the elections.

“We demand that Comelec begin preparations for a full manual count and present their contingency plan to the public as soon as possible. Under the law, this is allowed.  We know that they have made initial preparations for a manual count.  Thus, there should be no obstacle to prevent elections from taking place this Monday,” Aquino said.

“What is important is the integrity of the process and its final outcome. If full manual counting is the practical solution, then let us do it, no matter how long it takes to finish,” he added.

Erap says ‘why not’?

For his part, Estrada said he is amenable to a 10-15 day delay but only if the Comelec reverts to a manual count of the elections.

“If there will be a delay, it should only be to put the manual counting into effect. If there will be a delay of 10-15 days but this will ensure clean and reliable elections, then why not? Anyway, within 15 days that is still within Arroyo’s term and the only fear of the people is that her term will not be extended. So if the postponement is just another 10 – 15 days but it will decrease the risks of fraud and failure of elections, then we should consider it,” he said in a statement.

For his part, Teodoro said postponing the election would be the “height of irresponsibility” in the part of Comelec.

Teodoro urged Comelec to resolve the problems in poll automation. He said the Comelec was given enough time to prepare a contingency plan for manual elections.

Calls for a delay of the nationwide elections mounted Tuesday after Comelec and poll machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM admitted that faulty software in memory cards for more than 76,000 vote counting machines would have to be replaced.

Palace: Don’t blame us

A Malacañang spokesman on Wednesday said he favored a postponement of the election but backtracked after Comelec said the memory cards will be replaced in time and the election will be able to go ahead.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar also said the Palace should not be dragged into the problems with the vote-counting machines.

He said critics should “remember that the Comelec is a constitutional body wherein Malacañang cannot interfere and does not interfere in its decisions and operations.”

“Those critics should look at their books and study the Constitution before casting their blame on the Palace. We have been consistent in our support and advocacy for fair, free, orderly and credible elections,” Olivar said.

Postponement allowed only for local polls?

A noted constitutionalist and an administration senator, meanwhile, opposed the suggestion to delay the May 10 polls.

Lawyer Joaquin Bernas, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, said the Omnibus Election Code does not have a provision that allows a delay in the national election.

“Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code states that Comelec is authorized to postpone in any local subdivision. There’s nothing in the law about national election. It would seem the power is only in local elections,” he said.

He said that while the issue can be brought before the Supreme Court, many people may oppose the idea of a delayed election because they distrust the Arroyo administration. “It will probably increase their distrust in the system,” he said.

Postponement and failure

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, meanwhile, said that while the Omnibus Election Code does not allow postponement of elections nationwide, it allows the Comelec to declare a failure of elections nationwide.

“There is a big difference between postponement of elections and declaration of failure of elections.  In the case of postponement, the law allows it only in a political subdivision, such as a town or a province.  In the case of failure of elections, the law allows it nationwide,” she told reporters.

Santiago also said that unlike postponement of elections, the provision on failure of election allows the Comelec to call for a new election within 30 days after the failure of elections.

“If we proceed with the elections as scheduled, in case there is serious cause, the Comelec can still declare a failure of elections.  The causes for the declaration of a failure of election may occur before, or after, the casting of votes or on election day,” she said. — with reports from Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak; Ces Drilon, Jay Ruiz, Sheryll Mundo, Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News