Election watchdog opposes mall voting

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A Catholic Church-based election watchdog has joined opponents of a plan of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to use facilities of big shopping malls around the country as voting precincts in next year’s polls.

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The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsbile Voting (PPCRV) on Friday said holding of elections inside malls may not be prudent and may be in violation of election laws.

“Even if the Comelec will take over [a]mall, the owner [of the mall]could still be related to a candidate or to a party,” PPCRV chairman Henrietta de Villa said.

“Malls are privately-owned. If the mall owner or any of his family would be supporting a candidate, a party, or belonging to a party, of course, the elections held there will have a different political color,” de Villa added.

She called on the Comelec to abandon the plan for further study.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista earlier said the holding the elections in malls is the most practical way to entice more people to come out and vote.

“It’s the practical way. BP [Batas Pambansa] 881 was passed during the time of [President Ferdinand] Marcos. There are lots of outmoded ways that are still in the law. Many changes have occurred in our society, technological and otherwise, and I think we have to use these changes for the benefit of society,” Bautista explained.

BP 881 is the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines.

According to Bautista, massive turnout of registrants in the Comelec’s “no bio, no boto” validation and registration campaign being held in various malls every weekend has encouraged the commission to continue toying with the idea to conduct voting in malls.

He disclosed that the management of Robinson’s malls and SM Supermalls had given their commitment of support to the plan.

“There had been preliminary studies made and I think this is a step in the right direction. This will enhance the voting experience of our voters. It’s a win-win situation in several respects,” Bautista said.

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