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MANILA, Philippines – For credible, organized, and fair elections on May 9, poll watchdogs have toured the country months ahead to monitor and help the public understand the entire election process. (READ: Poll watchdogs band together for the 2016 elections)
With only less than a week left before the elections, how are poll watchdogs preparing?
Rappler talked to various organizations involved in monitoring the country’s polls.
Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)
PPCRV is preparing for the elections by conducting voters’ education for its more than 700,000 volunteers all over the country.
Together with Rappler, it has produced a step-by-step guide on what to do inside the voting precinct. It is also working with Rappler on a campaign to monitor vote buying, vote selling, and other election wrongdoing through the #PHVoteWatch map.
In partnership with AMA University, the PPCRV has organized weekly “satellite classes” that inform volunteers about various aspects of the automated elections.
PPCRV has also produced downloadable training materials on voting which are found on its website.
“The more people know how to poll watch, the more people know how to vote. It’s gonna be easier for all of us,” said Ana Singson, national communications and media director of PPCRV.
The Comelec server that will receive the transmitted data from all vote-counting machines (VCMs) nationwide will also be placed at the PPCRV command center in Manila, which was launched on May 3.
Singson said they have started mobilizing volunteers to welcome the VCMs that will arrive within the week. These machines are the ones that read the ballots. (READ: How does the PH automated election system work?)
“They will be escorting the machines and the ballots to make sure that they are closed until the final testing,” Singson said.
While the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is the only source for the official parallel vote count, the PPCRV is mandated by the agency to conduct the “unofficial” one.
National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel)
Learning from previous elections, Namfrel identified 6 areas to focus on:
- Campaign Finance Monitoring – Namfrel wants to make sure that candidates submit their Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCEs).
- Voters’ Information and Education – Aside from teaching the public how to vote, Namfrel also educates them about the characteristics of a good voter.
- Computerized Voters’ List Monitoring – Namfrel wants to make sure that the Comelec has already released the voters’ list.
- System Monitoring – Namfrel monitors the whole automated election process by starting with the procurement of VCMs, to monitoring errors in ballot printing and distribution, and in transmitting data. (READ: 10% of machines in overseas absentee voting ‘defective’)
- Random Manual Audit – This helps gauge the accuracy of votes counted by the machines by doing a sampling of the VCMs. Namfrel, which has partnered with the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants for this, will serve as third-party auditor. “It will happen in 238 congressional districts. One district may have one precinct that might be audited. But for congressional districts, [which] have very high or very thick voting population, we may have as much as 5,” Namfrel secretary general Eric Alvia said.
- Mobile Poll Watching and Campaign Monitoring – This is the newest project of Namfrel. “We want to make sure, of course, a lot of people are already very intense in monitoring what’s happening inside the classroom. There are a lot of political watchers, there are other citizens’ arms in schools, but we also want to make sure that they know what they are looking at… So we’re telling them there are ways to monitor and validate the vote counting,” Alvia explained.
Compared to manual elections, the automated elections would be more difficult to monitor, according to Alvia.
“Unlike in the manual setup, you just have access to the election returns, watch the ballot box – if it’s properly done and recorded. With this [automated elections], you have to look at a lot of things. There are a lot of vulnerabilities. If you’re unable to observe, it [process] will be exploited,” Alvia said.
Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente)
Lente has been conducting voters’ education for indigenous peoples (IPs) all over the country.
On election day, Lente will be going around polling precincts to keep an eye on the process.
“We’ll monitor the daily IP voting and select voting places that are identified for possible problems [on May 9], or those special polling places that we want to monitor because of circumstances like what happened from previous elections,” Lente’s Ona Caritos said.
Lente will also be providing legal assistance to civil society organizations like Namfrel, in terms of what should be done when there are incident reports or complaints.
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB)
SLB, the secretariat of Task Force 2016, has been focusing on election talks and voters’ education as well.
“We’ve been giving national situationers. What’s happening in the country right now? Some of the gains of the administration, some of the things that need to be improved. Usually we talk about that and we use that as a jumping point for discernment on who to vote for,” SLB program officer Karlo Abinales said.
Call for volunteers
Poll watchdogs encourage the public to volunteer for the elections.
Those who want to volunteer for PPCRV can do the following:
- Go to their respective parish and talk to the PPCRV coordinator. They may also text 09206777278 to get the names of the PPCRV coordinators. The names are also posted on the group’s website.
- Go to the command center in Manila for encoding or answering calls at their call center, which is operational 24/7.
Those who want to volunteer for Namfrel can do the following:
- Fill out the online application form here.
- Call 09391102872 and 09158293882.
Depending on their skills, volunteers can help out with any of the 6 projects in their localities or join the Namfrel staff in their operations center at La Salle Green Hills.
Those who are interested to be Lente volunteers can do the following:
“If they volunteer now, they can be mobilized in giving voters’ education, they do that before election. On election day, they will be monitoring the processes in their respective polling places,” Caritos explained.
“What we do is, the volunteer monitors the area where he/she is based. He/she will be the one to give updates on what is happening – if there are incidents of violence or [election] violations,” she added.