Comelec cites need to educate children on right to vote Created on March 12, 2013, 4:35 am Posted by nup

MANILA, Philippines - Candidates should put premium on children’s welfare and protection if they win in the May 13 polls, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes urged yesterday.

“They should listen to children. A child usually gives cleaner and straightforward statements,” Brillantes said during the “Bata Muna: Bumoto Para sa Kapakanan ng Kabataan” campaign of the multi-sector group Bata Muna Coalition advocating for children’s rights.

He said children are the “most neutral and impartial campaigners.”

Around 50 children aged 10 to 17 from various communities in Metro Manila met Brillantes and other poll officials during the event.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez gave the children a rundown of the country’s electoral process, the importance of clean and honest elections and every Filipino’s right to suffrage.

“You should learn and realize the value of your vote when you grow up,” Jimenez told them.

“Your voice could be counted as a vote. Your vote is equally important... it has no boundaries to speak of. No poor vote, no rich vote... all of us have the same voice and the same vote,” he said.

In a statement, the Bata Muna coalition said they wanted political leaders “who will stand up for children’s rights” and voters that demand political accountability on children’s rights.

The group intends to make “children’s issues visible during the campaign and ultimately influence voters to consider children when voting.”

“We demand candidates to listen to children, put the issues of children and children’s rights in their platform and discuss them during their campaign sorties, and fulfill their promises once elected,” the group added.

Jimenez underscored the need to educate children about elections early in life.

“The right of suffrage does not occur overnight. Early on, the youth should know the value and concept of fairness and fair play. We should accept defeat as part of the game. What is important is the concept of representative democracy. Even without playing politics, the issue here is to expose yourself early on in the game,” Jimenez said in Filipino.

9,507 to train on 156 PCOS units Created on March 11, 2013, 2:59 am Posted by nup

ONE hundred fifty-six Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines are now ready at the Provincial Comelec office for the training of 9,507 board of election inspectors (BEI) in Cebu from March 8-20, said Provincial Election Officer Ferdinand Gujilde.

Day-long trainings will be done by batch, he said.

BEIs from northern Cebu will be trained at Stakili Beach Resort in Compostela; Alta Garden in Cordova for BEI’s from some southern LGUs, like Balamban, Asturias and the 6th District towns; while BEIs from southern towns and cities will be trained in Villa Teresita Resort in Talisay City.

On election day, each precinct will have three BEIs, though only the chair and poll clerk will undergo the PCOS training, said Gujilde.

This will familiarize them in the use of the PCOS machine, specifically, in the conduct of final testing, voting and transmission of election returns.

The day after the training, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will subject them to practical tests for them to earn DOST accreditation.

He said only one DOST-accredited BEI is needed in every precinct. For those who fail the practical examination, they will be assigned to other precincts where an accredited BEI is assigned.

After the training, Gujilde said, the PCOS will be returned to the Comelec central office for reconfiguration. He said another set of PCOS will be sent here seven days before elections.

BEI’s will receive P3,000 for serving during election day, plus P500 transportation allowance and another P500 for the final testing and sealing.

Gujilde said the BEIs will also get an unspecified amount of allowance during the training. OCP

Canvassers hold trainings for May polls Created on March 11, 2013, 2:58 am Posted by nup

SOME 345 municipal and provincial election canvassers in the Cordillera region participated in a three-day training from March 4 to 6 as part of their preparations for the May 13, 2013 elections.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) regional director Jose Nick Mendros said the training joined by canvassers from Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Mt. Province, Kalinga and Ifugao, consisted of lectures in operating Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and the Canvassing Consolidation System.

The training, he said, also involved lectures which focused on general instructions on voting and counting and canvassing of votes using the canvassing system.

“This is not just a refresher for municipal and provincial board of canvassers but this is actual training for them to carry out their duties as it also involves canvassing system operators in the region,” he said.

Actual training involved contingency planning and troubleshooting for different scenarios to ensure preparedness of canvassers during the elections, he said.

Mendros said that although the Board of Canvassers and the Board of Election Inspectors will use the same machines used in the 2010 national elections, several improvements were carried out by the commission to include several security features.

“For example, every time a canvasser opens a window using the software, a pin is requested first from the chairman of the board of canvassers,” he said.

The role of board of canvassers in the electoral process, he said, is crucial as they are in charge of proclaiming the winning candidates in the local polls.

Meanwhile, the regional director said they are now finalizing the dates for the training of thousands of teachers in the region who will serve in the Board of Election Inspectors.

He said they will conduct these training in the provinces not later than March 27 as conducting it in Baguio City entails additional expenses and travel time for trainees.

On issues related to the Precinct Count Optical Scan machines, the Comelec regional director stressed doubts on the capabilities of the machine to count and transmit votes are all speculations right now.

He said the agency has laid out contingency plans to ensure the smooth conduct of elections and safeguard the votes.

“When there are brownouts, these machines will work as they have standby batteries. If there is no telecommunication signals poll officers may use satellite transmissions,” he said.

He also said other contingency plans include the bringing of Compact Flash cards containing the votes by the BEIs to the canvassing centers in the municipal halls where a standby card reader will be used to read the votes.

“Of course we will not let our BEIs bring the CF cards without any security. The police will secure the BEIs whenever there is physical transmission,” he said.

The Comelec regional head also stressed they are in constant coordination with the Philippine National Police through weekly command conferences to ensure peaceful elections this coming May.

10 things we should know about Philippine elections Created on March 8, 2013, 5:31 am Posted by nup

The campaign period for the May 2013 by-elections has started. It is probably the best time to review what we (should or already) know about elections in the Philippines.

1. Even if the Philippines is in the tropics, it also has four seasons like temperate countries. It has a dry and a wet season. And there's the Christmas season--purportedly the longest Christmas celebration in the world. It starts in September and ends in early January of the following. Last but not least is the election season, which starts in January and ends in the middle of May. Note that the election season almost immediately follows Christmas for a seamless stream of festivities. Formally, elections are held only every three years. However, politicians (incumbents especially) usually behave as if elections will be held tomorrow. So they preen, and they tidy up, and they put their best foot forward, and dispense all kinds of goodies to constituents.

2. There are only two kinds of politicians in Philippine elections: the winners and the cheated. Instead of conceding gracefully, the default behaviour of losing candidate is to claim the occurrence of fraud in favour of the winning candidate.

3. Even if the Philippines is the oldest democracy in Asia, it took more than a century to modernize the way we vote and count votes. Younger Asian democracies (with larger populations) like India had started using electronic voting machines since 1999. In contrast, the Philippines adopted similar machines on a nation-wide basis only in 2010. In both countries, though, the credibility of the voting machines rests on an independent verification system designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results. Since every election in the Philippines is governed by a specific law, the continued use of voting machines is not assured.

4. The Philippine Constitution provides for a multi-party system, which is actually more fit for a parliamentary system. While multiple parties exist in name, most of them are mere vehicles for electoral bids of key politicians. There is no prohibition on party switching and voters do not penalize politicians who switch parties. For example, the senatorial slate of President Benigno Aquino is composed of candidates from several political parties. The opposition line-up is similarly constituted by politicians from different parties. What makes the situation rather absurd is the adoption of the opposing coalitions of three guest candidates. It is an indication of the bankruptcy and lack of imagination on both sides. There is surely no lack of suitable candidates on both camps but they decided instead to guest 'sure-win' candidates. In the past week, so-called guest candidates chose to campaign with the administration candidates. This prompted threats from the opposition coalition that it will no longer carry said guest candidates followed by inane ripostes from some of the 'guests' that their loyalty is to the Filipino people and not to any political coalition.

5. At the end of an election (general or otherwise), political alignments will either be with or against the incumbent administration. There is no rule prohibiting those who styled themselves as opposition candidates and won to join the pro-administration coalition after the elections. The move is explain as a way to ensure funds for district projects, the idea being the President is more incline to approve projects if they were proposed by political allies rather by political opponents. Sometimes, it does not work in such a neat way. Presidents may court the critical votes of opposition politicians by providing pork barrel allocations and other forms of patronage.

6. The discussion above highlights the difference between candidate-centred vs. party-centred electoral systems. In party-centred polities, political parties choose their candidates through primaries, party conventions and caucuses. In these polities, party discipline prevails; party members follow the party (voting) line in legislative bodies. It is unthinkable for politicians to switch parties like butterflies flitting from a flower to another. In sum, what is important is the political party as a 'brand'. It stands for something--an ideology, a political program--and its leaders and members are secondary. Votes are cast for a politician because he is strongly associated with a party 'brand'. In contrast, parties are not strong 'brands' in candidate-centred systems. Candidates are the 'brands' and political parties are just extraneous packaging or wrappings that may be changed in the next election. The candidate does not need to have an ideology or a political program. Rather, he must have a reputation of performance--of providing divisible favours to constituents, supporters, and financiers such as hand-outs, jobs, infrastructure projects, and preferential treatment by government such as exemptions and special credits. He then claims that these 'public goods' were made possible by his 'private performance'. Thus, the ubiquitous presence of 'Epal tarps' in all corners of archipelago make sense.

7. In candidate-centred polities like the Philippines, the differences between legislators and local chief executives are blurred. Voters and politicians alike do not consider legislation as the primary work of legislators. If a legislator behaved as a pure legislator and concentrated on making laws, he will most likely not be re-elected. Voters will see him as a useless politician since he did not 'bring home the bacon'. The legislator must behave like local chief executives (LCEs) as provincial governors, city and town mayors, and even barangay captains who must deliver divisible goods. For this reason, among others, legislators and LCEs had seen it fit to play a game of electoral musical especially since the enactment of the Local Government Code (LGC) in 1991. Through the 1991 LGC, funds available to LCEs of some local government units (LGUs) became more substantial than those of congressional district representatives. However, a better explanation for this behaviour is the term-limit rule. Representatives and LCEs can only serve for three consecutive terms. The ability to run for other electoral posts helps politicians with expiring terms to maintain their hold on political power.

8. The other way around term-limits is the field relatives (wife, husband, son, daughter, etc.) for the soon-to-be vacated post(s). This could just be bench-warming strategy; the relative keeps the post for a three-year term until the principal is eligible once more to run for the post. However, it could also be an expansionist strategy. The 'bench-warmer' had gained valuable experience and exposure; these assets could be parlayed into another electoral post. These circumstances can explain the origins of political dynasties in the Philippines. Let's recall the case of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Arroyo hunkered into a survival strategy after her electoral mandate was put into serious question after the 2005 'Hello Garci' scandal. The strategy apparently covered the post-presidency period and Arroyo planned to run for a congressional seat in her home province to acquire a modicum of immunity. During her incumbency as President, that same seat was occupied by one of her sons. To accommodate her, the son did not contest the same seat but chose to run for another post instead. The filial ties between mother and son were key to this unprecedented post-presidential survival strategy.

9. The Philippine Constitution explicitly prohibits political dynasties. However, the same constitutional provision is not self-executory and requires that an enabling law must be passed. However, all attempts to pass such a law have failed so far, and understandably saw since most legislators are members of what could be rightly called political dynasties. The current by-elections can lead to the consolidation of several political dynasties associated with the biggest and brightest names in Philippine politics--Aquino, Angara, Enrile, Cojuangco, Escudero, Binay, etc. The political dynasty issue is rather a complicated one. Proponents of banning or controlling political dynasties argue that it will strengthen Philippine democracy by broadening choice of candidates and removing the undue advantages of dynasties (wealth, experience, exposure, and name recall, among others). Those who would advise caution think an anti-dynasty law is actually an unconstitutional piece. It violates the equal treatment clause of the Constitution. Why should a son or daughter or a brother or a grandson or an uncle be prohibited from contesting an electoral post because a relative is in power? What would justify discriminatory treatment?

10. One thing that political dynasties have going for them is that they are better able to handle the ever-rising costs of elections. The key factors are population growth--the growth of the voting population--and the rather fixed length of the electoral campaign period. In the past, candidates (especially those for national posts) thought it was adequate to rely on hand-shaking, posters, flyers, city-hopping, and miting-de-avance to win. However, the increased number of voters and the fixed campaign period forced candidates to use television and radio as the primary campaign tools. Not that the mass media corporations are complaining. They are in fact happy since a previous ban on electronic campaigning was lifted. The increased prominence of electronic media in Philippine elections raises serious questions regarding election campaign finance and electronic campaigning. If TV and radio presence is a function of a candidate's money, if TV and radio presence enhances a candidate's name recall and chances of winning, what rules are being implemented regarding these activities? Are they adequate? What reforms are needed?

This is not an exhaustive list; it could be expanded to 50 things about Philippine elections. Perhaps we can end with the question: is it more fun with Philippine elections? The response will be mixed. We do not a have a porn star member of the Italian parliament who delivers her speeches with a breast exposed. We do not have brawling parliamentarians as in Taiwan and South Korea. On the other hand, our elections are fun! We love our elections! Elections are fiestas, extravaganzas, spectator sports, boxing bouts, and cockfights rolled into one. There are movie stars, starlets, and dance troupes galore. And there's food and drink. Reportage on elections reflects these metaphors. Now you know why a lot of Filipinos want elections to happen every year rather than every three years.

Comelec issues guidelines for foreign election observers Created on March 8, 2013, 4:56 am Posted by nup

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has come out with guidelines for foreigners who wish to monitor the country’s second automated polls on May 13.

In Resolution 9652, the Comelec said any “foreigner or foreign group, organization, committee or association, representing government or private interests,” who may want to observe the elections, must file an application for accreditation with the agency’s Education and Information Department.

The period for the filing of application is from Feb. 1 to April 15.

Duly accredited observers can conduct interview with or attend briefings of candidates and political parties before election day; interview members of the Board of Election Inspectors and voters, document proceedings on election day, and observe counting and transmission of ballots and transport of the precinct count optical scan machines after the election.

The Comelec emphasized that accreditation comes with responsibilities.

“In choosing respondents for interviews, endeavor to apply objective criteria in order to ensure fairness and balance in their observations and conclusions. Ensure that all observers and monitors explicitly state, in all their statements to the media on Election Day, that their observations and monitoring activities, and that the same are not necessarily indicative of conditions throughout the country,” the Comelec added.

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The resolution stated that violators of these provisions face one to six years imprisonment, and deportation after the prison term has been served.

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan called on the Philippine National Police and the Comelec to intensify efforts to curb the rising number of election-related violent in the country despite the enforcement of a gun ban.

“We have yet to hear of an election-related violent case that was investigated and that has led to the conviction of the perpetrators and masterminds,” he said.

Pangilinan recalled the torching in 2007 of a school building in Taysan, Batangas during the elections. The incident killed a teacher and another person.

“Clearly, more needs to be done to curb electoral violence in the country. We urge the PNP and the Comelec to do all they can to arrest those who, in trying to win at all costs, have murder on their minds,” he said.

Poll-related violence has already been reported during the campaign, with the killing of the mayor of Isabela being one of the high-profile cases. Recently, two electoral candidates in Masbate were shot a day apart from each other.

“The Maguindanao massacre where 58 people, including 32 media workers, were killed because of local politics should serve as a grim reminder to our police and election commissioners on how deadly election season can be in the country,” Pangilinan said.

Apart from the Comelec and the PNP, Pangilinan said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) must work double-time and outsmart these perpetrators to pinpoint the masterminds behind election-related violence and electoral fraud.

“It is only when we bring these cases to justice that we will begin to see genuine change in how political campaigns are being run in the country,” he said. – With Christina Mendez




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