Smartmatic

Hang ’em high later, says human rights commission chair

Hang ’em high later, says human rights commission chair
By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Hang them later.

Veteran election lawyer and Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima Thursday said now was not the time to hold accountable those who caused the pre-election glitches involving the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Ensuring the success of the May 10 elections, De Lima said, should be everyone’s priority.

“With the elections mere days away, this is not yet the time to seek to hold accountable those persons whose actions have led to this muddle,” De Lima said at a forum in Manila. “We can discuss this later at a more opportune time.”

“Instead, there is a need to throw our full support behind the current efforts of the Comelec to ensure that the machines and other paraphernalia are ready and in place in time for Monday, and that the voting process will be secure and the results accurate,” she added.

“We are in a race against the clock, as well as a race against those who would use nefarious means to replace the will of the people with their own political ambitions,” she added.

“This is a race we cannot afford to lose,” De Lima said. Failure of elections, she added, was a violation of human rights.

Bishop Efraim Tendero, of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, said he, too, believed that the blame game should come later after the people had helped ensure the success of the elections.

Tendero said his group continued to trust in the Comelec’s capability to pull off the exercise.

He said, however, that the Comelec should also have a backup plan, including complete manual elections, if necessary.

Smartmatic-TIM Corp., the Venezuelan-led consortium that won the contract to conduct the Philippines’ first totally automated elections, is currently replacing the cards in 76,000 PCOS machines after mock elections held earlier in the week produced erroneous results.

Comelec mulls sanctions vs Smartmatic for foul-ups

Comelec mulls sanctions vs Smartmatic for foul-ups
KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN
GMANews.TV

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

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

Malacañang: No military takeover in case of total failure of polls
abs-cbnNEWS.com

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
abs-cbnNEWS.com

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
abs-cbnNEWS.com

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
ABS-CBN News

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.

Comelec scrambles to fix glitch before polls

Comelec scrambles to fix glitch before polls
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Election officials scrambled Thursday to fix a computer glitch that sparked fears of a chaotic failure of the country’s first automated presidential polls and calls to postpone next week’s vote.

The Commission on Elections discovered a problem with the memory cards of the optical counting machines during final tests early this week, prompting it to recall the cards in about 76,000 machines already deployed in as many precincts across the archipelago.

With just days before 50 million Filipino voters elect a new president, vice president and officials to fill nearly 18,000 national and local posts, the last-minute glitch fed suspicions of possible vote-rigging amid scattered political violence that has claimed dozens of lives.

Elections officials and Venezuela-based Smartmatic, the private consortium that won a 7.2 billion peso ($160 million) contract to supply the counting machines, said they were dealing with the logistical nightmare amid a massive effort to correct the defects in the memory cards and attach them back to the machines.

They assured Filipinos that Monday’s elections will proceed as scheduled, dispelling rumors, which spread through cell phone text messages, that the polls will be postponed for at least two weeks.

Authorities began to test the repaired machines in three cities in metropolitan Manila on Thursday to determine if they work. Tests in one voting center in Makati city showed the machines were “100 percent” accurate, said Cesar Flores, Smartmatic’s Asia-Pacific regional head.

“It appears that our prayers are being answered,” Commission on Elections Chairman Jose Melo told a news conference.

Flores said he was ready to face a possible government investigation but said his company’s main focus was to ensure successful polls. He refused to say how costly the mistake was for Smartmatic.

“We are not counting money now, we have an election to save,” Flores said. “It was a stupid mistake with huge consequences.”

Opposition Sen. Benigno Aquino III, who has topped election surveys, strongly objected to any election postponement, saying a delay could result in “a potentially disastrous crisis of a leadership vacuum” when President Arroyo steps down on June 30.

Aquino blasted election officials for mishandling the vote-count automation and suggested they should resign. “Their efforts have so far only yielded disastrous results,” he told reporters.

Ousted President Joseph Estrada, who has placed second in the surveys, backed a postponement but said it should not be long enough to allow Arroyo, his political nemesis, to possibly plot to extend her tumultuous term.

Under the constitution, Arroyo must hand over the presidency because of term limits, and her aides have repeatedly said she would do so.

Smartmatic told the election commission that it can fix the problem, test the new memory cards and deliver the machines all over the country in time for the vote, Elections Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said.

Private corporations led by beverage giant San Miguel Corp. lent at least 24 helicopters and planes. Air force helicopters also were on standby to help, Larrazabal said.

Flores said the problem was traced to “human error” and was not an act of sabotage. He even offered to deposit his passport with election officials to guarantee he would not flee the country if the elections fail.

The problem intensified calls by many groups for a manual count of votes for at least five top posts, including president, vice president, House members, governors and mayors. The commission last week rejected the proposal.

Reporters barred from interviewing Villar

Reporters barred from interviewing Villar
AMITA O. LEGASPI
GMANews.TV

Reporters covering the Nacionalista Party campaign were furious Wednesday night after they were barred from getting near presidential bet Senator Manuel Villar Jr. and interviewing him after at least four hours of waiting.

The organizers of the NP rally in Pasig’s Mega Market blocked the media from getting inside the backstage area to see Villar, who was then addressing the crowd. Before Villar arrived, the media were allowed to go to the backstage and freely roam the area.

There were also some personnel wearing orange, Villar’s official color, who took pictures of the complaining reporters.

No one from the NP camp wanted to explain the incident. Even the senator’s media relation officers said they were unaware of the order to prevent the media from getting inside.

Before the incident, Villar’s media officers told reporters that the senator cannot grant an interview as he has no voice due to sore throat.

However, the senator was able to speak before the Pasig residents and his supporters.

The reporters wanted to get Villar’s reaction on the endorsement of the Iglesia Ni Cristo religious organization of his rival, Liberal Party standard bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III.

The senator also did not receive the endorsement of another major religious leader based in Mindanao, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ organization.

In a hastily-called press conference at the sidelines of the campaign rally earlier in day, reporters were also requested to limit questions on the malfunction of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and Smartmatic.

When reporter tried to asked about the INC endorsement, the senators said they can no longer answer the question as it was time for them to go to the stage and greet the crowd.—JV, GMANews.TV

Comelec: Machine testing can drag until election day

Comelec: Machine testing can drag until election day
By Reynaldo Santos Jr.
abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak

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
abs-cbnNEWS.com

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