By Mikha Flores, VERA Files
An irritated Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. scolded citizens’ arm National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) for publicly airing their concerns for the May 13 elections.
Brillantes said NAMFREL, as an accredited citizens’ arm, should refrain from making public statements especially those that are critical of Comelec’s preparation for the midterm polls.
“Wag naman. Kaya ka nga citizens’ arm e. Kamay ka ng Comelec susuntok mo ba sarili mo, (Please don’t. You’re Comelec’s citizen’s arm. Will you punch yourself using your own arm)?” Brillantes said. “Kaya ka nga nilalagay na citizens’ arm para tumulong, hindi para manira (You were put in as citizens’ arm to help, not to destroy us),” he added.NAMFREL
NAMFREL issued a news release on Thursday containing the April 23 letter of National Chairperson Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo to Brillantes airing their apprehensions about the capability of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to count and transmit the results on Election Day.
“The malfunctioning of the PCOS machines will pose problems on congestion and long lines in the precincts, voluntary disenfranchisement for voters who do not have the time or patience to wait, possibility of low turnout, and frustration for both Board of Election Inspectors members and the voters,” the letter read.
Brillantes questioned the timing of the release of the letter, saying it came 18 days before the May 13 polls and coincided with the media appearances of former Commissioner Augusto “Gus” Lagman who is also associated with NAMFREL.
“Baka naman nagkakaron ng conspiracy, (Maybe there’s a conspiracy involved here),” Brillantes said.” Ang feeling ko lang (My feeling)…is that some people inside NAMFREL, not necessarily Cora dela Paz, took advantage of her letter…and came out with it as a press release,” he added.
Among the concerns raised by NAMFREL in the letter include glitches of the PCOS machines in the mock elections in February. Reported problems include the delay in the initialization of the PCOS machines, ballot rejections, delay or failure in transmitting election returns.
A PCOS machine also failed to accept ballots in NAMFREL’s national assembly on March 2. The PCOS failed to function during the training of the Board of Election Inspectors in Vigan, Ilocos Sur and in designated Comelec demonstration centers in Cubao and Davao.
In the Overseas Absentee Voting in Hong Kong, the PCOS also refused to accept ballots.
NAMFREL also noted the discrepancies in the random manual audit (RMA) at the University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS) during the mock elections. The audit team recorded 15 mismatches between the PCOS count and the manual count, exceeding Comelec’s set threshold of 10 discrepancies.
NAMFREL asked Comelec to have their technical personnel double check the capability of PCOS machines on May 13 “so that the elections will run smoothly from voting to transmission”.
Brillantes said that while they have the power to accredit citizens’ arm, they have the same power to cancel their accreditation. “I’m not threatening them. I’m just saying is that delicadeza would demand that if they want to criticize us then they should not act as citizens’ arm.”