• Comelec plans to localize keeping of ballot boxes

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    BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: An official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disclosed on Monday a plan to “localize” the safekeeping of questioned ballots and other elections paraphernalia to lessen costs of protests.

    “If approved, election ballots which are the subject of election protests may no longer be transported to the Comelec central office for review and hearing,” said Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca, who was in Nueva Vizcaya on Monday.

    Padaca said “the plan to localize the safekeeping of questioned ballots is being considered by the poll body to lessen transportation and other costs incurred especially on the part of the protestors or petitioners.”

    Padaca said that, the plan of localizing is unlike the present set up where the questioned ballot boxes have to be transported to the central office at the expense of protestors.

    Under the said scheme, Padaca said, the concerned local elections offices would only have to look for secured warehouses or bodegas where to keep the elections ballots which are subject for manual count or audit.

    “This place, of course, has to be strictly safeguarded by deputized law enforcers,” she said.

    Padaca also said that, concerned protestors and political parties may also employ their respective personnel to monitor and guard the safety of questioned elections ballots pending the resolution of their election cases.

    “In my experience when I protested in the election of my rival, congressman Faustino Dy 3rd for the gubernatorial post, I had to shell out at least P500,000 for the transport of elections returns to the poll body’s central office,” Padaca said.

    In 2010, Padaca was seeking her third and final term as governor but lost to Dy 3rd by 3,500 votes. She claimed of massive vote buying and rigging of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

    “Besides transport costs, the protestors also have to pay for the services of lawyers as well as employment of their own personnel to guard the questioned ballots at the Comelec central office warehouse while waiting for the resolution of their election protests,” Padaca said.

    However, Padaca said that, the move to localize the counting of questioned ballots boxes will still be discussed and formalized during their next en banc session.

    Padaca said the Comelec is also formulating measures to hasten the resolution of election protests.

    She said the resolution of protests usually takes years before they are resolved and sometimes results are already moot and academic.

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