Solon Sees Quick SC Ruling

MANILA, Philippines - Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento is counting on the Supreme Court to act with dispatch on the petitions against the Commission on Elections' move to purchase the 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines from Smartmatic-Total Information Management's (TIM) for next year's midterm polls.

Sarmiento called on the High Court to immediately address the petitions to ensure smooth and orderly May 2013 elections, citing his preference for automated elections which proved to be effective during the 2010 polls.

"I don't want to go back to the old system. For sure the SC will settle the issue right away," he said.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. earlier said the poll body could be forced to return to the manual system of counting votes if the SC fails to immediately act on the petitions.

Several groups filed separate petitions before the High Court to stop the Comelec from purchasing the PCOS machines used in 2010, which according to them, have already been manipulated by some politicians to advance their political interests.

Like Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr., Sarmiento rallied behind the Comelec's move to "exercise the option to purchase" the PCOS machines that the poll body rented from Smartmatic in 2010, saying that the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) already dispelled claims of irregularities in the 2010 elections.

"Looking at the HRET results would show the PCOS is pretty accurate. The SC's mandate I believe is to interpret the law," Sarmiento said.

The Solidarity for Sovereignty and another group led by Davao City Archbishop Fernando Capalla, who sought on March 30 the issuance of a temporary restraining order on the P1.8-billion PCOS machines purchase maintained the Comelec's move was "illegal and unlawful."

Earlier, a congressional source said President Benigno S. Aquino III expressed reservations on Commission on Elections' decision to purchase and use some 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2013 midterm polls, saying that a "genius" in electoral fraud could have allegedly mastered PCOS machines for manipulations.

The source said the President is "not against PCOS per se," but he has some reservations, citing the possibility that some manipulators and cheats have developed the David Copperfield tricks given the years that have passed.