EXCEPT for the needed legal imprimatur, all systems go for the Commission on Election’s (Comelec) planned “mall voting” during the 2016 local and national elections.
“There’s a process that we’re following. A Comelec resolution has to be passed and there will be a hearing. We will be doing that [next week],” Chairman Andres Bautista on Tuesday said.
“The direction is we want to do this because, as I said, it will enhance the voting experience. I think there are really many advantages for doing this,” he added.
Following a meeting on Monday, Bautista disclosed that, so far, they have the commitment of eight mall owners.
He said the malls’ representatives were amenable to their wish list, which includes, among others, the needed physical requirements, provisions, amenities, signage and markers, and human resources.
He said the mock elections, which would be held in January 2016, include the malls.
Bautista said that an estimated 2 to 5 million voters would be able to benefit from the planned mall voting; particularly those barangays located near the malls.
“We are looking on the right number (of voters) that will be transferred. The larger the mall, the bigger the number that will be transferred,” Bautista added.
Priority, he pointed out, would be on precincts with the most number of voters, senior citizens and persons with disability.
Bautista identified the participating malls as SM Supermalls, Ayala Malls, Robinsons Malls, Gaisano Grands Malls, Megaworld Lifestyle Malls, Pacific Malls/Metro Gaisano, Walter Mart Community Malls, and Fisher Malls.
He clarified that malls owned by politicians would not be tapped as voting centers. These include Villar-owned establishments like Star Malls and the Gateway Mall and Ali Mall of the Araneta-Roxas family.
Earlier, the Church-based election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) has asked the Comelec to abandon its plan for further study, saying that using the facilities of big malls as voting centers may not be prudent and may be in violation of election laws.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal and some members of Congress have also expressed their strong opposition to the plan, saying that voting in malls is not practical and may be subject to legal questioning.
But Bautista insisted that holding the election in malls is the most practical way to entice people to come out and vote.
Section 155 of Batas Pambansa Blg.881, otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, states: “No polling place shall be located in a public or private building owned, leased, or occupied by any candidate or of any person who is related to any candidate within the four civil degrees of consanguinity or affinity, or any officer of the government or leader of any political party, group or faction, nor in any building or surrounding premises under the actual control of a private entity, political party or religious organization. In places where no suitable public building is available, private school buildings may be used as polling places. No polling place shall be located within the perimeter of or inside a military or police camp or reservation or within a prison compound.”
Bautista, however, pointed out that, “the law is not absolute,” adding that what is prohibited by the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) is the use of private facilities owned by candidates or of their relatives.