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ILOILO CITY, Philippines – A day before the 2016 presidential elections, Iloilo City is all set and ready to cater to Ilonggo voters who will be choosing their next national and local leaders on Monday, May 9.
Vote-counting machines (VCMs) were already delivered across 430 clustered voting precincts in 4 districts across the city after they were tested by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) and poll watchers on Saturday, May 7.
As for the safety, Philippine National Police (PNP) – Western Visayas Regional Police Chief Superintendent Bernardo Diaz said that no town or city in Western Visayas is on the election watchlist.
In the province of Iloilo, only the towns surrounding the city were considered to be a concern, or what the police described as “areas of interest,” according to Iloilo Provincial Police Chief Senior Superintendent Roderick Augustus Alba.
These are Oton, San Enrique, Alimodian, Concepcion, Estancia, San Dionisio and Bingawan.
There are a total of 180 barangays with 1,736 precincts and a total of 461,481 registered voters in Iloilo City alone.
Meanwhile, the province of Iloilo is considered as one of the vote-rich provinces in the country with 1,347,514 registered voters in 44 municipalities. (READ: Complete list of Iloilo candidates)
Final testing for VCMs
After conducting the final testing and sealing (FTS) on Friday, the COMELEC office in Iloilo City started solving technical problems in the VCMs before they began delivering election paraphernalia to all the clustered precincts.
“The technical problems in the VCMs are all minor and we expect all of these to be solved before the day ends,” lawyer Jomar Betita, Election Officer of Iloilo City, said.
He also stated that the actual delivery of important paraphernalia, especially the ballots, would start after the first minute of May 9.
NAMFREL-ILO preps volunteers
The National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) also wrapped up its preparations for the elections at the University of the Philippines – Visayas.
NAMFREL Iloilo Provincial Chair Ruben Magan Gamala discussed the protocols for the NAMFREL volunteers for Monday’s operation. Issuance of IDs and t-shirts followed after the program was closed with NAMFREL’s traditional candle lighting ceremony for honest and clean elections.
At least 110 volunteers will be deployed across the 6 districts of Iloilo. Each district will have a district head, together with respective municipal coordinators and volunteers.
COMELEC will point out voting precincts that will be subjected to the Random Manual Audit (RMA), and NAMFREL will have teams on these precincts as areas of assignment. Volunteers will start preparing in the morning on Monday, and will start their duty in their area of assignment right after the voting stops.
“They are observers and at the same time, they can be tapped by the committee for assistance,” Gamala added.
Any discrepancy on the figures coming from the VCMs and the manual audit will be recorded. These will be reported to the municipal coordinator and will then be relayed to the district chairman and to the provincial chair. These records will be used if complaints are filed later on.
“Roles will be based on the task assigned to them – whether they are poll watchers, random manual auditors, quick count operators, observers of the automated election system, or roving mobile phone watchers. They have a lot of roles and their obligation would be really to behave as volunteers, be cooperative and maintain a cordial relationship with the election officers,” Gamala said, discussing the responsibilities of a NAMFREL watchdog.
NAMFREL has a chapter responsible for monitoring polling precincts in almost all municipalities and cities across the country.
Andrew Escuban, a volunteer for NAMFREL, expressed his concern regarding their job and the election process.
“Elections are a sacred process. I don’t want to leave this opportunity to cast my vote. This is a sacred calling and we just can’t take it for granted. I’m going to fight for it. We should be more vigilant right now, not only on poll watching,” Escuban said
He added: “Our main concern is the handling of election returns for RMA, especially in remote places. We should pray that it would be safeguarded.” – With reports from Paul Marfil, April Joy Gaquit, and Kim Rojas / Rappler.com