'Get out': COMELEC commissioner enraged over PNP's alleged inspection of vote-counting machine warehouse

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 30) — Thirteen days before the midterm elections, a furious Commission on Elections official warned the Philippine National Police that it has no authority to inspect the poll body's vote-counting machine hubs.

Cordillera Police Regional Director Police Brigadier General Israel Dickson was photographed by a journalist inside the COMELEC warehouse in Baguio City on April 22. The report said the police official inspected the vote-counting machines and other election paraphernalia days before the May 13 polls.

COMELEC Commissioner Rowena Guanzon tweeted that no one is allowed to inspect their hubs without permission, even if they are top police officials.

PNP spokesperson Bernard Banac promptly issued a response that Dickson was probably given permission to inspect, otherwise he wouldn't have been allowed to enter. That further earned the ire of Guanzon.

"PNP Director of Baguio was not given permission by our Regional Director Valeza. He entered when a logistics supplier not a COMELEC official was present. PNP, my problem is your spokesman talks too fast to defend their own, making me & our Director look like liars. Get out!," Guanzon tweeted on Tuesday.

Dickson said it was not his intention to inspect the hub, saying he went there to personally oversee the deployment of personnel securing the warehouse.

"It was just a coincidence that during the supervision, the VCMs were being unloaded and no warehouse supervisor from the COMELEC was in sight for a coordination to be made. Therefore no existing COMELEC laws and resolutions were violated," he said in a statement.

Senatorial candidate Chel Diokno on Monday wrote the commission to ask for an investigation into the PNP's alleged inspection of the machines crucial to ensure a fair and honest election. He said non-COMELEC personnel shouldn't be allowed in a restricted facility.

"Medyo nakaka-nerbiyos yon, dahil hindi na po yan perimeter security at wala naman kaalaman, wala naman kakayahan ang mga PNP na alamin yung PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan), kung gumagana ba 'yan, kung tama o mali. Ang mga eksperto lang ang may kaya niyan," he said.

Senate bet and election lawyer Romy Macalintal said inspection of the counting machines was not part of the mandate of the police.

“Nakakabahala. Kailan pa ba nagkaroon ng authority ang PNP na mag-inspect ng vote-counting machines. Hindi porke't sila ay mga police inspectors ay pwede na sila mag-inspect ng vote-counting machines. It is not part of their being police," he said.