“Let the common good be the aim of our politicians and let the common
good be the basis of our choice for our next set of public officials, then truly, ‘love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss’ (Ps 85:11) in our land.” These were the last lines in the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines Pastoral letter we released last January 28, 2019, just before the start of the campaign season.
But such a meeting between love and truth and such a union between justice and peace shall not transpire in the context of our elections, following the questionable conduct of those charged with protecting the integrity of our ballots.
We, the undersigned Bishops, see fault in the conduct of the recently concluded elections, with overwhelming accusations of tampering in the 2019 elections and manipulation of results. To this day, Commission on Elections (Comelec) has yet to respond satisfactorily to the following irregularities:
1. 961 out of 85,000 Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) reportedly experienced “issues”;
2. In the early afternoon of May 21, 2019, 600 VCMs were suspiciously and abruptly replaced;
3. 1,333 malfunctioning machines and 1,665 Secure Digital (SD) cards suffered “glitches,” as reported by teachers from the Department of Education;
4. Different parts of the country reported the existence of pre-shaded ballots and questionably erroneous ballots receipts; These irregularities and possible logistical tampering already cast doubt to the reliability of the election results. But the credibility of the results was made even more unreliable after the seven-hour sudden blackout in the transmission of election results. Such a phenomenon is unprecedented after years of conducting automated elections. It is even more unnerving that this happened after the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) was denied full access to the data needed to ensure the credibility of the elections.
We question the suspicious behavior and sidesteps employed by the Comelec to avoid addressing the aforementioned issues and the data blackout in a comprehensive manner and in sufficient detail. This suspicious behavior and sidesteps include:
1. The unelaborated “Java error” which stalled the delivery of election returns to various recipients;
2. The continuing denial of Comelec to provide Namfrel “access to the logs of all machines used in the automated election system,” without restrictions and consistent with Open Data Principles;
3. The refusal to disclose the location of the Central Server, its backup, and the identities of those managing their operations;
4. The refusal to disclose and explain the “transmission route” or the “meet-me-room” network set up, how it operates, why it was necessary, and who are involved in its operation.
It is in light of these questionable conduct and justifications that we join the clamor of people and civil society groups for Comelec to suspend the national canvassing and proclamation. Until an impartial investigation is made, our country will not be able to find closure on the questions of integrity and credibility of the results of this election process.
No amount of name-calling and threats from the part of those silencing protests can repress the call for transparency.
As witnesses of the Risen Lord who insists that the “Truth will set us free”, we ask for a truly independent investigation of the allegations mentioned above. We call on the people to document and report cases and experiences of election-related anomalies. The same Jesus speaks to our hearts:”Courage! I have overcome the world.”
Let the truth prevail, heed the call of the people. Let us not compromise the integrity in this elections.
MOST REV. BRODERICK S. PABILLO
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
+63915 889 4424
MOST REV. GERARDO ALMINAZA
Bishop of San Carlos
MOST REV. ANTONIO R. TOBIAS
Bishop of Novaliches