Comelec argued before Supreme Court: May 9 elections possible but risky

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Supreme Court heard on Thursday (March 17) oral arguments on whether to print voter's receipts on election day.

Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Leonen asked Commission on Elections (Comelec) Senior Commissioner Robert Lim if it is possible to print ballot receipts during the May 9 elections.

"Yes, it is possible," answered Lim.

Lim, however, argued the receipts will be incomplete unless they change the source code of the vote-counting machines. Revisions to the source code necessary to print the receipts.

"The current source code will not suffice if we print receipts," said Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista.

If the poll body changes the source code, it will cause delays to Comelec's timetable.

"Definitely not no-elections, but part of the scenario is postponement," said Lim.

The Comelec, considering how the Supreme Court order will affect its timeline, said it would mean that they can only hold elections on May 23.

The Comelec added without changing the source code, the receipts that the machines will print will not contain the ballot ID, precinct numbers, and the machine hash codes. These are security features that help in auditing the poll results.

Leonen asked if those are necessary, and the Comelec answered "yes, they are."

Related: Supreme Court affirms order for Comelec to print voter's receipts

Advantages vs. disadvantages

The Comelec was challenged if it can carry out the elections of May 9 if the writ of Mandamus holds, Bautista said it can meet the challenge and they are not giving up.

"Regardless of what the decision, we will follow. We will do our best given the circumstances," he said.

Bautista also explained the advantages and disadvantages of printing voter's receipts for the at least 50 million registered voters. The poll body earlier said that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages of the Supreme Court order.

The advantage is that the elections will be more transparent. The disadvantages, meanwhile, would be vote-buying, first and foremost, said Bautista.

The other disadvantages include switching of receipts, longer voting process, and re-training of the election day volunteers and the voters, too.

Bautista also insisted the Republic Act No. 9369 does not require printed receipts.

Senatorial candidate Richard Gordon, who filed this case against the Comelec, presented an alternative timeline which he said, showed there is enough time to change the source code, print the receipts, and still hold the elections on May 9.