SENATOR Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s political party once again expressed dismay over the policies and decisions of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Thursday.

After its meeting with Comelec commissioners and Chairman Jose Melo, Liberal Party (LP) representatives told reporters that the poll body has kept on ignoring their suggestions with regard the automated election system (AES) to be implemented this May.

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LP campaign manager Butch Abad said the party's concerns included the “questionable” source code review, disabled UV scanning capability of the automated machines, random manual audit, Comelec's refusal to accredit a poll watchdog, unfair ballot design, disqualification of its incumbent candidates, status of its petition to be accredited as a dominant minority, and the absence of a contingency plan in case the AES fails.

Former Defense secretary Avelino “Nongnong” Cruz, who is also representing the LP, said the group has decided that it will no longer conduct an independent source code review due to time constraints.

“The problem is we only have 47 days left and according to the IT guys present there, there is not even enough time in 47 days to conduct the review,” Cruz said.

LP is the only political group that has expressed intention to review the source code earlier certified by Systest.

In a letter addressed to Melo, Aquino and his running mate Senator Mar Roxas said the commission "prevented a timely and genuine review of the source code."

The party also questioned the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines' inability to read the UV ink in the ballots.

“The PCOS has no means to distinguish if the ballot is authentic or not,” Cruz said.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, meanwhile, explained that the teachers assigned in the polling places will be doing a manual verification of the ballots on election day.

"The UV markings are still there in the ballot, there will be a manual verification of the UV ink done by the BEI (board of election inspector) so the voter itself can see the UV ink in the ballot. There are other security features in the ballot that will allow the ballot to be read by the machine," Larrazabal said.

The LP tandem likewise questioned the ballot design where the name of Aquino's closest rival Nacionalista Party bet Manny Villar is located in a separate box.

Because of the last-minute change in the ballots and Comelec's refusal to remove the name of disqualified candidate Vetellano Acosta, Villar's name is by his lonesome in the list of presidential candidates.

“Noynoy is number two in the list. Villar's name, meanwhile, solely occupies Number 10. That is an advantage to Villar because voters will immediately see his name,” said LP's election lawyer Sixto Brillantes.

Comelec earlier said the outcome of the elections will not depend on the order of names in the ballot and that the candidates should trust the voting public to vote their candidate of choice.

“Do we have to consult everyone when it comes to the design of the ballot? ...we cannot remove Acosta anymore from the ballot because the moment we remove Acosta, that will entail opening again of the source code and that will be very dangerous,” added Melo.

LP also hit the coalition of Villar’s Nacionalista Party (NP) and Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) of vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda.

Aquino and Roxas said the NP and NPC merely entered into an alliance to be accredited as the dominant minority party.

Under Comelec rules, the dominant minority party should field the most number of candidates in the national and local elections.

As separate political parties, NP would field 7,393 candidates, while NPC will have 3,435. Combined, the coalition will beat out the 7,945 candidates of LP.

Both the LP and the NP-NPC alliance have submitted petitions to be accredited by Comelec as a dominant minority party.

Despite their numerous concerns, LP campaign manager Abad said they will respect the outcome of the polls even if their bet will not get the post.

“We will respect the result of the elections but it should have been conducted in an honest and fair manner,” he said.

Melo, meanwhile, maintained that a scenario of a failure of elections is far from happening.

“There will be elections nationwide. There may be failure of elections in some areas for reasons that cannot be controlled. For example, a political killing in a barangay occureed and people got scared to vote. These things also happen in manual elections,” the Comelec official said.

The Center survey

In other developments, Senator Aquino challenged the credibility of the survey conducted by the Center for Issues and Advocacy (CIA) showing rival Senator Manny Villar of NP leading the race.

Aquino said that CIA, more popularly known as The Center, headed by Ed Malay, predicted that former administration candidate Jose De Venecia Jr. will win the 1998 presidential elections by a landslide.

“It was Malay who said, with all due respect to Manong JDV, he will win by a landslide. So, I hope Mr. Malay is consistent, if (Villar) is number one that means I will be the winner,” he said in a sortie in Pangasinan.

It can be recalled that opposition candidate Joseph Estrada won the 1998 elections.

“I don’t know him (Malay), I never met him. I don’t know if he has any ill will towards me. All I can say is he has not been consistent with the rest of the surveys that were already established. According to his detractors in 1998, he predicted not only Manong JDV’s victory but a landslide victory for him,” Aquino said.

Malay was the spokesperson of former President Fidel Ramos.

Earlier, Aquino was quoted as saying that some surveys are credible while some “can be bought from Quiapo.”

Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza, Ramos's nephew, once again clarified that the former President Ramos has nothing to do with the CIA survey.

“Let me reiterate and repeat, the former President had issued a statement that he is not in any way connected with those surveys or did he commission Ed Malay to conduct those surveys,” said Braganza.

Pangasinan second district Representative Victor Agbayani, an ally of the Liberal Party, said the warm and genuine reception of Pangasinenses is more important than any survey.

The CIA survey conducted on March 3 tp 10 showed that 28 percent of the 2,400 correspondents chose Villar while 26 percent prefers Aquino.

Lagging behind were former President Estrada (Pwersa Ng Masang Pilipino) with 18 percent, Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (Lakas-Kampi-CMD) with 14 percent, Senator Richard Gordon (Bagumbayan) with 9 percent, tele-evangelist Eddie Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas) with 2 percent, and JC delos Reyes (Ang Kapatiran) with 0.5 percent.

Independent candidates Senator Jamby Madrigal and environmentalist Nicanor Perlas both got zero percent.

Malay credited Villar's number one rating to his television, print, radio and online advertisements. (Kathrina Alvarez/Angela Casauay/Sunnex)