Duterte marks 77th birthday, wishes for clean, fair elections

“Clean, fair and honest elections” on May 9.

Rodrigo Duterte

That, according to Malacanang, is the birthday wish of President Rodrigo Duterte, who turns 77 Monday.

Acting Presidential Spokesperson Martin Andanar said Duterte would hold a “simple and quiet celebration” in Davao City, where he was mayor before he was catapulted to the presidency in the May 2016 elections.

“His birthday wish for this year is to have a clean, fair, and honest election in May 2022, as he has time and again underscored the importance of a peaceful transfer of power as part of his enduring legacy,” Andanar said in a statement.

“We join all our countrymen in wishing our beloved President Rodrigo Duterte a happy 77th birthday.”

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Andanar also thanked Duterte, “whose strong and decisive leadership and genuine compassion for every Filipino have inspired officials in government.”

Duterte has yet to officially endorse a presidential candidate for the elections but the faction he supports in his party PDP-Laban – also known as the Cusi faction – recently endorsed Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the running-mate of the Chief Executive’s daughter.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Elections asked Sunday the public and political parties to go to precincts nationwide on May 2 to 7 to personally witness the final testing and sealing of vote counting machines that will be used in the general elections.

In a Super Radyo dzBB interview, Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said during those days, each precinct would be using 10 original ballots for the May 9 polls and visitors might test them themselves.

“All precincts in the Philippines will have a final testing and sealing or the closure of VCMs. We invite all political parties, citizens’ arms, our fellow voters, to please go to the precincts during those days,” Garcia said.

He said the VCMs would be tested “and you all need to witness that the receipt they will print first shows zero. You need to see that it is zero because that means the machine is empty.”

Garcia explained that volunteers who would participate in the VCMs’ final testing and sealing dates might try to undervote or overvote, shade the ballot incorrectly, and even draw on or tear the ballot to check if the VCMs would accept them.

He added that once the VCMs were sealed before the witnesses, representatives from political parties would have to sign a form indicating that the VCMs were not impaired and were ready for the May 9 polls.

The Comelec on Thursday conducted a random manual checking of the official ballots for the elections, allowing several representatives from political parties and election stakeholders to check the quality of the printed ballots.

Last week, Garcia noted that 105,853 ballots found with smudges, improper cuts and colors, or unmatched timestamps would be burned in front of candidates, political parties, or their representatives.

Meanwhile, Garcia called on the National Bureau of Investigation to release the results of its probe into the alleged security breach of Smartmatic’s automated election system as soon as possible.

In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, Garcia said the Comelec was waiting for the probe report so that the poll body could inform the public and do appropriate actions ahead of the May 9 polls.

“While we are anticipating NBI’s action regarding its findings, the Comelec likewise wants to ensure that the automated election system is secure,” Garcia added in a mix of English and Filipino.

Earlier, Senator Imee Marcos, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, claimed the Smartmatic data breach might have compromised personal information, ledgers, office photos, and contact persons in Comelec, and these data could be in the hands of a syndicate.

In response, Comelec officials said they immediately contacted the NBI to investigate the matter.

For its part, the NBI said that the Smartmatic employee who was supposedly involved in the alleged security breach was already in its custody.

During the hearing of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms last Monday, Smartmatic spokesman lawyer Christopher Louie Ocampo emphasized that their system “was not hacked” and that the elections would remain 100 percent safe and secure despite the issue.

Ocampo said that the source code and software of the Automated Election System was wholly governed and controlled by the Comelec, noting that the poll body’s own servers and infrastructure are separate and distinct from Smartmatic.

Garcia, however, pointed out the need to investigate the matter to make sure the people would not lose their trust in the AES process.

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