Senator Imee Marcos has revealed that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was reducing the number of digital signatures needed to ensure that the May 9 election results are authentic.
Marcos cited a Comelec memorandum dated February 18 that assigns only 106,174 digital signatures for teachers who will head the electoral boards and only 38,739 for those who will be members.
The digital signatures for electoral board members will be limited to the National Capital Region (31,614), Cebu City (2,892), and Davao City (4,233).
“Rampant cheating usually occurs in rural, island, and other remote areas. The lack of digital signatures at the precinct level will set up the elections for public distrust, even failure,” the Senate electoral reforms and people’s participation committee chairman said.
Section 18 of the Election Automation Law or Republic Act (RA) 8436, amended by RA 9369, provides: “The election returns transmitted electronically and digitally signed shall be considered as official election results and shall be used as the basis for the canvassing of votes and the proclamation of a candidate.”
Besides the law’s mandate, Marcos added that commitments to provide complete digital signatures for the May 9 elections were made by the Comelec, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Education (DepEd), and the Department of Science and Technology during Senate hearings in May and June 2021.
Downscaling digital security measures on Election Day is “cause for further alarm,” Marcos said, after a Senate hearing she called on Wednesday bared that the Comelec blocked independent observers from monitoring the configuration of SD cards for vote counting machines and that the National Printing Office churned out voter’s ballots in similar secrecy.
The Comelec said attaining the ideal number of digital signatures was constrained by three failed biddings for cables matching the microchip mechanism called i-Buttons that are needed to activate vote counting machines.
“Has the Comelec tried China or Shopee?” an exasperated Marcos quipped.
“We should, in fact, be assigning more digital signatures as we increase the number of precincts for social distancing amid the pandemic,” Marcos said.
The Comelec plans to increase the number of clustered precincts to at least 100,000, from the 85,769 comprising 389,703 established precincts during the 2019 elections.
“We’re not yet counting digital signatures for each Board of Canvassers at the municipal level,” Marcos pointed out.
As of Thursday, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has already provided about 296,000 digital signatures for teachers but Comelec has yet to complete the vetting process for those who will serve as election inspectors.
According to the DICT, producing digital signatures was done at random until late February when the Comelec started to submit the names of teachers who will serve on the electoral boards.
The DepEd told Marcos’s office that they had submitted a list of about 300,000 teachers to the Comelec at the end of January. (PR)