• Comelec: No legal snags in mall voting

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    THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) legal department saw no legal impediment to the poll body’s plan to utilize facilities of shopping malls around the country as voting centers in next year’s local and national elections.

    “There is no problem on mall voting. The [Comelec] law department said that it saw no violation of the [Omnibus] Election Code,” Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista disclosed on Friday as he inspected the mock set-up for mall voting at Robinson’s Magnolia in Quezon City.

    Bautista said the Commission would invite next month all election stakeholders for a consultation hearing for their concerns and approval.

    “If there is no objection from those that would be affected by our proposed mall voting, then we would finalize it next month,” he added.

    Bautista said only those whose precincts are located in schools located near the malls can vote in the malls.

    He estimated that some two million registered voters would be transferred from schools to the malls.

    According to Bautista, they were also identifying which malls are conducive so as to enhance the voting experience, comfort and convenience of the voters.

    He mentioned, among others, Fisher Mall along Quezon Avenue in Quezon City; Robisons Magnolia on Aurora Boulevard, also in Quezon City; SM Aura in Taguig City (Metro Manila), and Lucky China Town in Binondo, Manila.

    The Church-based election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) earlier 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.

    Also earlier, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal and former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal and some members of Congress expressed their strong opposition to the plan, saying that voting in malls is not practical and may pose some legal questions.

    But Bautista insisted that holding the elections in malls is the most practical way to entice people to come out and vote.

    Section 155 of Batas Pambansa 881 or 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 fourth 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 said “the law is not absolute,” adding that what is prohibited by the Omnibus Election Code is the use of private facilities that are owned by candidates or of their relatives.

    Thus, he added, the Comelec cannot use the facilities of the Gateway Mall because it is owned by the family of presidential candidate Manuel Roxas 2nd.

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