Cardinals held a first inconclusive vote in the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday as they began the process of electing a successor to Benedict XVI, with tens of thousands of people packed into St Peter's Square to watch the time-honoured tradition.
The crowd cheered as black smoke billowed into the night air above the Vatican from a thin copper chimney on the chapel's roof, indicating that no pope had been elected.
The eyes of the world will be fixed on the chimney in the coming days for the smoke signals sent out twice daily -- white smoke will indicate that a new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics has been chosen.
The 115 cardinals filed past Swiss Guards into the chapel earlier on Tuesday chanting the Latin hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus" ("Come Creator Spirit") to ask for divine guidance after Benedict's troubled eight-year papacy.
The scarlet-robed "Princes of the Church" swore on the Bible never to reveal the secrets of their deliberations or face being cast out of the Church, before the chapel's heavy wooden doors swung shut to indicate the lock-in had begun.
THERE are four laws that govern campaign finance during elections.
These are: the Omnibus Election Code; Republic Act 6646 or the Electoral Reforms Law of 1987; Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized Election Law; and Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Election Practices Act.
In order to give more weight to the laws, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc promulgated last June 22, 2012, Resolution No. 9476 or the Rules and Regulations Governing Campaign Finance and Disclosure in the May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections and Subsequent Elections Thereafter.
The Comelec, itself, acknowledged that there is problem in the campaign finance law.
In the case of Central Visayas, no less than Comelec 7 Director Temie Lambino admitted that candidates submit their statements of campaign expenses (Soce) for the sake of submitting. No one can follow the provisions of the laws enacted decades ago, it is “archaic,” said Lambino.
According to the Fair Election Act, local candidates with a political party are only authorized to spend P3 for every registered voter, while political parties are allowed to spend P5 for every registered voter.
Independent candidates are authorized to spend P5 for every registered voter.
The June 2012 resolution of the Comelec provides for the creation of the campaign
finance unit, which has the role of monitoring fund-raising and spending activities.
It is supposed to put teeth to the laws as the unit will receive the Soce, reports from donors and election contractors and advertising contracts and logs.
The unit will then compile and analyze the reports if, indeed, the authorized spending cap was followed.
The report of the campaign finance unit will be made available to the public.
But who will comprise the campaign finance unit?
According to the records of the Comelec 7, Cebu has 2,509,520 registered voters with only 140 election officers and election assistants. Cebu has the largest number of registered voters among the 80 provinces in the country.
Comelec officers are already wanting of personnel now that each employee has his or her hands full with election-related duties.
In the Cebu City north district, there are 11 Comelec staff including the election officer and assistant for the 34 voting centers and 248,292 registered voters. In the south district, there are 10 staffers, including the election officer and election assistant covering 36 voting centers with 299,389 registered voters.
Comelec 7 has nine staffers, including Lambino, while the Office of the Provincial Election Supervisor has 10.
Lapu-Lapu City has five election staffers for 248,292 registered voters.
Ginatilan does not have a lot of registered voters, only 10,168 and it only has one election personnel—an assistant election officer also acting as election officer.
Then there is also the challenge on how to go on about the implementation.
“The challenge is we don’t have absolute procedure on how to investigate and how to implement that kind of procedure,” said Lambino.
Investigation entails technical expertise so that trainings should have been done for the said campaign finance units.
But if the law is hard to implement and most, if not all, candidates don’t abide by it, why was it passed in the first place?
Former Comelec executive assistant to then chairman Christian Monsod (1992-1995),
lawyer Luie Tito Guia, said the laws were meant to equalize election prospects.
There are rich candidates and there are richer candidates.
Putting a cap in election spending equalizes the playing field among candidates.
But candidates have ways of going around the cap without being legally charged.
The question of whether Comelec can finally enforce the laws on campaign finance remains to be seen.
The Soce is submitted a month after the elections. Winning candidates cannot assume office without the Soce.
Losing candidates still need to submit a Soce, but an election official admitted it is hard to go after that person when he is not in office, the candidate could be anywhere after losing an election.
The Soce is an itemized statement of all contributions and expenditures during the elections. The document should have full names of donors including the taxpayer identification number. “Friends of…” cannot be used in the document.
According to the Omnibus Election Code, an election contribution is a “gift, donation, subscription, loan, advance or deposit of money or anything of value,” that can be used by a candidate during elections.
Not everybody can contribute to a candidate. Those prohibited to donate in the campaign funds are: financial institutions, public utilities, government contractors or sub-contractors, franchisees, those granted loans from the government, educational institutions that received grants, foreigners and foreign institutions, civil service.
Yesterday, Comelec Commissioner Sixto Brillantes Jr, tweeted: #Isumbong po sa @COMELECTV ang mga paglabag sa mga panuntunan ng pangampanya (Report any violations of campaign rules).
He subsequent tweets, he reminded candidates that the start of the campaign period, which is Tuesday for officials running for national positions, also marks that start of regulation of campaign propaganda and that includes the counting of campaign expenditure.
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.
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
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.