Senators vow to stop attempts to remove safeguards in the procurement of election equipment

Published November 30, 2020, 12:30 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators have assured that they will not allow any attempt to remove safeguards in the procurement and use of equipment for the country’s automated polls.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Senate Finance Committee chairman, confirmed on Sunday receiving information that there was a proposal to insert in the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) a provision that will give the Commission on Elections (Comelec) the authority to waive the requirements and safeguards under the Automated Election law in the acquisition of equipment to be used for the elections.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara (Senator Sonny Angara Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara (Senator Sonny Angara Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

He said Senate President Vicente Sotto III “gave very clear instructions not to allow anything like this before we ratify the budget in the coming days [or] weeks.”

“[We] Cannot allow [it]. I’m looking into it already!” Sotto also tweeted.

Sotto said such a proposal is “easy to shoot down,” noting that provisions of general laws cannot amend special laws.

“[Republic Act] 8436 as amended by 9369 is a special law while GAA (General Appropriations Act) is a general law,” he added. Angara concurred.

Senator Joel Villanueva also vowed: “No way po, the Sen[ate] Pres[ident] is very clear.”

It was not disclosed who the proponent of the alleged insertion to the budget bill was.

Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal raised his concerns and said the safeguards in the Automated Elections Law must remain.

“This is very dangerous. There must be safeguards in the system,” Larrrazabal said.

Election lawyer Emil Marañon III said that with the reported proposal, the Comelec can “adopt an untested new system or it can waive all safeguards, mandatory tests, certifications, review by political parties and election watch dogs, among others.”

“If this happens, the upcoming election can no longer be trusted,” he warned.