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The Election: Its Promise, The Fears, And The Need For Our Vigilance

January 17, 2010

Each day that passes we come closer to what’s billed as a watershed undertaking.

We will be we electing a brand new President, a President with unquestionable mandate resulting from what the COMELEC and its prized automated elections system provider say is a cheat-proof, hacker proof, and power outage resistant.

(The surveys are telling us “Filipinos have made up their mind” about who will repair the havoc wreaked by the exiting Chief Executive upon our democratic institutions and our sovereign prerogatives.

Officially we are also being told that  the Philippines will most assuredly consign the ‘Hello Garci’ nightmare and Dagdag Bawas vote-stealing practices to the farthest recesses of history.

Here’s an unofficial diagram of the ‘secure’ data transmission system for the elections where very small aperture (VSAT) satellite uplink and down terminals will be used to give the COMELEC  virtual private network (VPN).

This virtually ties together the entire archipelago.

The vote tally will be transmitted direct by the Smartmatic-supplied precinct level precinct count optical scan machines PCOS)through to the local and regional level computerize canvassing points, and then to the COMELEC National Canvassing Center with the data immediately available on-line  to all interested parties and citizens.

The systen will also be tapping the data transmission backboans of the telecommunications companies

There is also an easy to understand guide about how we should vote using the automated election systemm:

But till May 10 passes and the election results are known some 72 hours after polling precincts close no one can really say if a new day for Philippine democracy is at hand.

Foolhardy we are if we let our individual and collective guards down.

This was the focus of the NewsStand press forum the other day that saw two grizzled senior politicians: Sen. Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel and former Senator Francisco ‘Kit’ Tatad field questions about coming polls,

Quite a slew of issues were taken up, including the floating trial balloon that Pres. Arroyo could very well appoint a new Chief Justice after CJ Reynato Puno retires from the high court on May 17.

Pro-Arroyo hacks and certain lawyers have claimed that Mrs. Arroyo must do that “because the Supreme Court cannot be left headless.”

Both Tatad and Pimentel cited historical precedents and pertinent constitutional provisions that expose the Arroyo plan as pure, unadulterated BS.

Tatad, who’s seeking to return to the Senate, pointed out how Article 7, Section 15 of the fundamental law prohibits the sitting President from making appointments “two months before the next presidential election and up to the end of his term except temporary appointments in executive position…”

He also cited the fact that “even if a vacancy occurs in the Supreme Court post of Chief Justice becomes vacant there is a 90-day period to fill that vacancy.”

Section 15. Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.

Tatad also cited Sections 4 and 8 of Article 8 of the  1987 Constitution that gives the Judicial and Bar Council the duty of interviewing, and recommending, new SC justices.

Section 4. (1) The Supreme Court shall be composed of a Chief Justice and fourteen Associate Justices. It may sit en banc or in its discretion, in division of three, five, or seven Members. Any vacancy shall be filled within ninety days from the occurrence thereof.
Section 8. (1) A Judicial and Bar Council is hereby created under the supervision of the Supreme Court composed of the Chief Justice as ex officio Chairman, the Secretary of Justice, and a representative of the Congress as ex officio Members, a representative of the Integrated Bar, a professor of law, a retired Member of the Supreme Court, and a representative of the private sector.

“With the election results becoming known 72 hours after polls close on the 10th of May, the nation will already have a President-elect. Mrs. Arroyo is forewarned against usurping her successor’s sacred prerogative.”

“Even as the JBC will be headless until the next duly-elected President assumes office, names a new Chief Justice,  and reconstitutes the JBC, the resolution of the issue are no longer within Mrs. Arroyo’s purview.”

“She cannot pretend to comply with her constitutional duty while running afoul of still another provision.”

“Mrs. Arroyo should busy herself instead with ensuring a smooth transition to the next duly elected administration.”

Sen, Pimentel, for his part, said Mrs. Arroyo “should not mistake the whispers of her sycophants for truth.”

“It is as clear as day that even if there are electoral protest brought before the Supreme Court such cases could come as late as two months after the elections with a new chief Justice already being appointed and a new Judicial and Bar Council already constituted.”

The news forum concluded with both Tatad and Pimentel saying the threats to the integrity of the automated election system should not be ignored.
“All of us must be passionately vigilant against both human and high-tech threats. While a general failure of elections may be far fetched, we must not be complacent about the evils that lurk in the dark alleys.”


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