Senators vowed to block any attempt that would give the Commission on Elections (Comelec) authority to waive requirements of machine testing and proven capacity for automated election systems that will be used in Philippine automated polls.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III responded to a tweet by election lawyer Emil Marañon that a senator is attempting to insert a provision in the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) giving the Comelec a carte blanche authority to waive or disregard all the requirements and safeguards in Section 12 of the Automated Election Law by inserting such provision in the proposed GAA.

“With this, COMELEC can now adopt an untested new system or it can waive all safeguards, mandatory tests, certifications, review by political parties and election watch dogs, among others. If this happen, the upcoming election can no longer be trusted,” Marañon added in another tweet.

“Cannot allow. I’m looking into it already!” Sotto tweeted.

In another tweet Sotto said the proposal is easy to “shoot down” since the “provisions of a general law cannot amend the provision of a special law.”

“RA 8436 as amended by 9369 is a special law while GAA is a general law,” Sotto said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon agreed with Sotto stressing that such a provision tinkering with the Comelec’s mandate could be unconstitutional since “it had nothing to do with the budget.”

“Moreover, if true, it will amend the Procurement Law, which cannot be amended by inserting that clause in the General Appropriations Act,” Drilon added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson also agreed with the two senior Senate leaders.

“Firstly, the General Appropriations Act can only contain provisions that are consistent with appropriations, and secondly, being a general law, it cannot amend a special law which RA (Republic Act) 8436 as amended by RA 9369 is,” Lacson said in a message to reporters.

Senate Finance committee chairperson Sonny Angara supported Sotto’s move to “not allow any such attempt” to insert a special provision in the GAA.

Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon welcomed Sotto’s move to look into the matter.

In another tweet, Guanzon thanked Sotto for his move saying waiving the bidding requirement of prior track record “is very risky”. She added that a worst scenario for the May 2022 elections are “chaos nationwide, allegations of fraud, no credible elections.”

The Senate and House of Representative will meet for the bicameral conference committee deliberations on the budget, tentatively scheduled to start December 1.

The next presidential, senatorial and local elections is on May 9, 2022.  Rommel F. Lopez