Poll watchdog accuses Comelec of spying, seeks SC help

Members of a poll watchdog, joined by Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada, a whistleblower in one of the graft scandals that rocked the Arroyo administration, have accused the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of spying them using its P30-million intelligence fund.

In a petition for writ of habeas data filed with the Supreme Court, Lozada and members of the Automated Election System (AES) Watch also asked that Malacañang "permanently cease and desist" from giving intelligence funds to the Comelec.

Habeas data aims to protect the image, privacy, and freedom of information of a person, and can be used by any citizen to find out what information is being held about him or her.

GMA News Online was still trying to reach Comelec for its comment as of posting time.

Lozada and the members of AES Watch wanted the SC to order the respondents to disclose to the courts any information they have on them, and "permanently suppress, destroy or permanently seal” these information.

They also wanted the Comelec to stop from "using these illegally-gathered information to prosecute critics of the PCOS automated elections technology suite for election sabotage and other applicable offenses or crimes."

In the meantime, the petitioners asked the high court to bar the respondents from further collecting information or conducting surveillance on the petitioners, as well issuing statements that "threaten" them with surveillance or prosecution for alleged election sabotage.

Named respondents were Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes, Comelec commissioners, Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph, Christian Robert Lim, Luie Tito Guia, Grace Padaca, Al Parreño, Comelec finance director Dulay Mejos, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., and deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

The petitioners included Lozada, AES Watch members Augusto "Gus" Lagman, Harry Roque Jr., Nelson Celis, Dr. Pablo Manalastas Jr., Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Fr. Jose Dizon, and Sister Mary John Manazan, among others.

Media statements

In their plea, the petitioners cited a statement made by Brillantes that supposedly hints that AES Watch members were being held under surveillance.

"Bakit sila matatakot kung wala silang ginawang masama? Talaga namang ginagamit ang intel fund sa mga nagsasabotahe ng election," Brillantes was quoted as saying in the petition.

Valte also reportedly issued a similar statement, according to the petitioners, who quoted her as saying: “The justification is supposed to be utilized for intelligence, counter intelligence activities and gathering of information relative to the activities of certain groups, individuals and technology experts suspected of conducting overt and covert operations to sabotage the results of the elections."

AES Watch vs. PCOS technology

The petitioners noted that they publicly asked Brillantes to declare that the P30-million intelligence fund was not meant to spy on critics of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) technology, but the poll chief allegedly "chose to keep silent."

It was the AES Watch that had also asked the SC last April 10 to reject the P1.8-billion contract signed by the Comelec to use PCOS machines for the May 13 midterm elections, which, like the 2010 elections, were automated.

The contract, signed last March 30, is between the Comelec and Smartmatic International and its Filipino partner Total Information Management Corp (Smartmatic-TIM).

Aside from the purchase of 82,000 machines, the contract also included the consolidation and canvassing system of Smartmatic-TIM at no cost to the Comelec.

AES said the contract should be cancelled because the Comelec "committed grave abuse of discretion in opting to buy the PCOS machines and allied paraphernalia of SMARTMATIC for use in the approaching 2013 election, despite incontrovertible findings of the glitches, malfunctions, bugs, and defects of the same."

Two months later, in June, the high court junked AES' plea, as well as that of three other petitioners, and ruled that the poll contract was legal.

The court said the contract was still valid and existing because the performance security bond posted by Smartmatic-TIM was not yet returned.

The bond was in the form of a letter of credit worth P360 million or 5 percent of the original P7.2-billion poll automation contract for the May 2010 polls. It was meant to fund penalties for non-performance or should Smartmatic-TIM fail to deliver the equipment based on contract schedules. — KBK, GMA News


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • No apology, but Noy seeks understanding
    No apology, but Noy seeks understanding

    There was no apology, but President Aquino yesterday expressed regret, took “full responsibility” and appealed to the nation for “deepest understanding” for the Jan. 25 Mamasapano raid in which dozens died, including 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos. “To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation, it is with abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding,” Aquino said in a speech before the 246 new graduates of …

  • MVP on endorsement: Thanks, I’m no politician
    MVP on endorsement: Thanks, I’m no politician

    Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan is grateful for Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s praise and presidential endorsement, but says he is not a politician. In an interview on the sidelines of the launch of the search for The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines 2015 Wednesday night, Pangilinan dismissed the idea of running for president in the 2016 elections. “I’m not a politician, I’m just an ordinary business person,” he added. Santiago endorsed Pangilinan as a presidential candidate …

  • No Lenten break in operations vs lawless groups – AFP
    No Lenten break in operations vs lawless groups – AFP

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not suspending its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, New People’s Army (NPA) and other lawless groups during the Holy Week, an official said yesterday. Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs office chief, said the AFP leadership is leaving it up to area and division commanders whether to raise the alert status in preparation for the Holy Week. Those deployed in areas where there are ongoing law enforcement operations against terrorist groups …

  • Probe harassment vs human rights lawyer, CA orders AFP
    Probe harassment vs human rights lawyer, CA orders AFP

    The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to investigate a human rights lawyer’s claim of harassment, including surveillance, by several military officers. In a 22-page decision, the former Special Sixth Division of the appellate court granted the petition for writ of amparo and habeas data of Maria Catherine Dannug-Salucon. The CA ordered the AFP to identify the officers behind the surveillance and file charges against them. The CA ruling said …

  • Noy vows to dismantle bata-bata system in PNP
    Noy vows to dismantle bata-bata system in PNP

    President Aquino vowed yesterday to dismantle the culture of factionalism or the bata-bata system within the Philippine National Police as he continued the search for the next PNP chief. Speaking at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) commencement exercises here, the President said the country needed solidarity among leaders and members of the police force so that the policemen would be effective protectors of Filipinos. “Our challenge to the next chief of our national police force: …

  • Envoy to expats: Retire, invest in Phl
    Envoy to expats: Retire, invest in Phl

    Retire and invest in real estate in the Philippines, especially now that the country has made it to the top 10 retirement destinations in the world. This is the message being spread by the Philippine embassy in Washington, with Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. leading the refrain in meetings with various Filipino-American communities in the US. In his talks, Cuisia said that an affordable cost of living as well as warm climate and people are just some of the things that make the Philippines a top …

  • PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson
    PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson

    The stigma of being a namesake of the principal suspect in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre did not prevent Cadet First Class Andal Ampatuan III from entering and graduating from the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA). Ampatuan III, now with a rank of police inspector, is a grandson of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. The younger Ampatuan was among the 246 graduates of the PNPA “Lakandula” Class of 2015. Ampatuan III’s mother is Bai Rebecca Ampatuan, a daughter of the …

  • Southwest transport terminal construction start still in limbo

    The construction of the country’s first intermodal transport facility is in limbo as both the government and the winning private concessionaire are waiting on each other before finally pushing through with the contract signing. Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the ongoing titling of the project site for the R2.5-billion Integrated Transport System (ITS) Southwest Terminal should not delay the concession agreement signing, which has been indefinitely postponed since February …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options