Comelec seeks SC permission to use EMS for 2019 midterm election

MANILA -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has filed manifestation and motion before the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET),for the lifting of the precautionary protection order (PPO) issued on July 2016 so it can use its election management system (EMS) in preparations for next year's midterm elections to save on cost.

The EMS servers contain the election database including the Project of Precincts, Voting Jurisdictions, and List of Candidates, among others. They also create the election configuration per precinct level, including the Consolidation and Canvassing System (CCS), Vote Counting Machines (VCMs), and SD Cards; and provide security configurations and digital certificates and private key certificate per VCM issued to the Board of Canvassers and Board of Election Inspectors.

The Comelec said it plans to use the hardware of the EMS servers for next year's elections, but will turn over the hard disk and storage device to the PET.

In a seven-page manifestation and motion through legal department director Atty. Ma. Norina Tangaro-Casingal filed last week, the poll body asked the SC to lift the PPO on the EMS and its servers issued in July 2016 for the election protest of former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.

The Comelec asked the Court to allow the use of the EMS servers in the May 2016 election for the May 2019 elections to save on costs.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines, through the Comelec, had already spent a considerable amount of money. In May 9, 2016 National and Local Elections, for the EMS alone, Comelec already spent the amount of PHP6,576,396.96 representing the total lease bid and purchase option prices, the poll body said.

To recall, the PET issued the PPO to preserve and safeguard the integrity of all the ballot boxes and their contents, including the ballots, voter's receipts and election returns covered by the protest."

The order covered ballot boxes and their contents, including the ballots, voter's receipts and election returns, the lists of voters, particularly the Election Day Computerized Voter's List (EDCVL); and voters registration records (VRRs), the books of voters and the audit logs, transmission logs, and all log files.

Also covered by the PPO were all other documents or paraphernalia used in the elections, such as the automated election equipment and such records as the VCMs, CCS units, Secure Digital (SD) cards (main and back up), and the other data storage devices containing electronic data and ballot images, evidencing the conduct and the results of the elections in all of 92,509 clustered precincts that functioned in the last elections.

The PPO was issued as part of procedures under rule 36 of PET rules.

The Comelec explained in its manifestation that the EMS is necessary for poll preparations since it is the core or brain of the automated election system.

"The EMS Servers are part of the Automated Election System (AES). They are indispensable because they complete the AES. They are indispensable because they complete the AES. They manage all the data and election configuration, hence, considered as the core or brain of the election configuration. Without the EMS, there will be no election configuration, the manifestation reads.

It then presented two options so that data can still be submitted to the PET for use in the ongoing protest of former Senator Marcos.

First Option: Have the data therein be backed-up and/or cloned in the presence of the representatives of the (PET) and the parties. Second Option: Remove the hard drive also in the presence of the representatives of the (PET) and the parties and turn over the same to the PET, the Comelec suggested.

The poll body revealed that the PET, in the earlier election protest of former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas against former Vice President Jejomar Binay, had granted that request of Comelec to re-use the EMS servers and CCS laptops used in the May 2013 and May 2010 elections. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency