THE Commission on Elections has asked the Senate and Senator Vicente Sotto III to begin an investigation in connection with his claim that irregularities took place during the May 9, 2016 presidential elections.
The poll body made its appeal six days after Sotto said in a privilege speech that votes were transmitted as early as May 8, 2016, or a day before the automated elections.
“We are really interested in finding the source of these allegations by Senator Sotto. That is our goal,” said Comelec spokesman James Arthur Jimenez.
“What is important is there will be an investigation.”
Jimenez said the longer the allegation of fraud remained unanswered, the more unfavorable it would to the credibility of the Automated Elections System.
“We cannot assume that the allegations are correct because there is nothing proven yet, Jimenez said.
“For now, we cannot confirm anything because we do not hold anything except copies of pictures from the TV. But that will not be enough to serve as basis for any conclusions.”
Former Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said he believed Sotto’s source for his claim was not a credible one.
“I am surprised with the statements of Senator Tito. Who is his source? I am worried that I know who it is, and I think it should not be believed,” Brillantes said.
“The automated elections have been here for eight years. We have had three automated elections, and I have yet to see any single evidence of cheating or manipulation of results.”
Jimenez said the Comelec was considering rescinding its P2.1-billion contract acquiring the 97,517 Vote Counting Machines from its private firm partner and software provider Smartmatic.
The Comelec used the machines in the 2016 elections.
“We had the option to purchase and we exercised that,” Jimenez said.
“But what if the Senate investigation is able to prove that there is a need to withdraw it? What if there is enough justification to rescind the contract? That is a different subject matter already.”
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said on her official Twitter account that the commission took several meetings before it decided on the option to purchase under the contract.
“With due respect, I beg to disagree that Comelec commissioners decided with undue haste,” Guanzon said.
“In 2015 I wrote a separate opinion explaining why our hands were tied and it is not of our own making when we voted for Smartmatic’s bid. Now I voted for Option to Purchase because Comelec doesn’t have funds for new machines.”
Sotto claims that the transmission of votes happened on May 8, 2016, a day before the automated elections, despite a Comelec en banc resolution saying canvassers should only convene starting at 3 p.m. on May 9 or election day.