The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed a petition to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to review the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT), employ the proposed “Camerambola” method of digitally signing elections results, and stop the use of capturing devices inside polling precincts in the 2019 elections.
In a decision penned by Associate Justice Mario Lopez, the SC en banc held that the petitioners led by AES Watch failed to prove that the Comelec abused its discretion and neglected its duties under the law. Likewise, the SC said that the conclusion of the 2019 national elections rendered the petition for mandamus moot and academic.
It said a case becomes “moot” when it ceases to present a justiciable controversy because of supervening events, and that any decision will have no practical use or value.
The Comelec implemented a paper-based automated election system and utilized optical mark reader machines in the conduct of the 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019 national elections. It used the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in 2010, and 2013, and the Vote-Counting Machines in 2016 and 2019.
As held in Bagumbayan, the VVPAT requirement is substantially complied with when the voter’s receipt is printed, and the voter can physically verify his or her vote.
The SC noted that the Comelec implemented this directive and issued guidelines that the VVPAT must be printed in the form of paper receipts and that the voters can verify their votes through the receipts.
The voters were also allowed to register their objections in case of discrepancies with their actual votes.
As for the proposed “camerambola” solution, the SC held that petitioners and intervenors did not establish the legal basis for the same.
The Court said that the former merely wanted to audit all VVPAT immediately after the elections and compare them with the election results, but were silent as to the intended purpose and how Comelec should mobilize the volunteers and watchers nationwide to conduct the audit.
“The VVPAT reflects the votes of voters that allowed the poll watcher or even the voters to take a picture of their VVPATs during the casting of votes may run contrary to the constitutional policy of keeping the ballots’ secrecy and sanctity,” said the SC.
It further noted that it already held in its Capalla ruling that “it is clear that the PCOS machines are capable of digitally-signed transmissions.”