MANILA, Philippines – The elections are less than a week away, but the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has not yet issued written guidelines to help election inspectors decide whether or not to issue replacement ballots – a concern raised by poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
In a press conference on Tuesday, May 3, PPCRV national communications and media director Ana Singson said there are still no implementing guidelines to determine the circumstances by which the board of election inspectors (BEIs) can issue replacement ballots to voters.
The Comelec allows voters to be given replacement ballots if vote-counting machines reject their original ballots through no fault of their own.
In an interview last week, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body will specify guidelines for issuing replacement ballots.
But with no written guidelines 6 days before election day, Singson said it is left to the BEIs’ discretion on whether or not to issue replacement ballots.
“We make our BEIs vulnerable because they have no policy guidelines to fall back on,” she said.
The PPCRV earlier opposed the Comelec rule, saying some voters may lose the chance to vote if the poll body runs out of ballots.
The PPCRV also raised concerns on the major changes to the voting process instituted by the Comelec with only weeks to go before the national polls.
“Up to April 26, Comelec was passing multiple resolutions. So many changes, so little time. A very deadly combination when thinking of the surgical precision needed in orchestrating the many moving parts in national and local elections,” Singson said.
These multiple revisions, Singson said, can lead to confusion in the field among election watchers, overlapping communications, and difficulty in training and preparing BEIs and other guardians of the ballot.
Voters, too, are left confused on the correct voting process. Singson said that information on different styles of voting have gone viral, which may have been accurate at one point in time.
“But because we changed several times, no one knows what the final version is,” she said.
The PPCRV also said it was “very concerned” about the transmission of votes. Singson said that in 2013, only 70% of vote-counting machines transmitted to the transparency server.
“In a very contested fight, every single transmitted vote needs to be counted, needs to be made transparent,” she said.
The PPCRV also scored the Comelec for leaving the poll watchdog out of key events in the run-up to the elections, such as the delivery and distribution of election paraphernalia.
“For the past elections, the PPCRV has met the ballots and campaign paraphernalia. But that has been a challenge for us in this particular election. The schedules of campaign paraphernalia distribution were not given to us. In other places, our volunteers were not allowed to check on the machines. This is a major concern for us,” she said.
The PPCRV on Tuesday also unveiled its command center for the 2016 polls, where its volunteers will collate reports and tabulate results in real time.
Some of the measures that the PPCRV will be implementing include the launch of a precinct finder to help voters locate their voting precinct while the Comelec website remains under maintenance.
The PPCRV website will also have a feature allowing volunteers to view precinct results based on a provided cluster precinct ID. The results will display the candidates’ names and tally of votes, grouped by the corresponding positions.
In cooperation with Rappler, reports of vote buying and selling, campaign offenses, and other election-related incidents can be plotted and mapped on rappler.com/phvotewatchppcrv.
To send reports, concerned citizens can tweet using the hashtag #PHVoteWatchPPCRV with the photo and information of the campaign offense.
The reports will be uploaded and shown on giant screens in the PPCRV’s command center at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center.
PPCRV chairperson Henrietta de Villa said that safeguarding the credibility of the elections is made more important given the tightness of the race, where candidates are statistically tied in various pre-election surveys.
“In past elections where the gap between candidates is wide, issues such as disenfranchisement tend to get overlooked. But when the race is as tight as this one, a difference of 100 or 200 votes is crucial,” she said in Filipino. – Rappler.com