Massive disenfranchisement of voters possible – PPCRV

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TIGHT WATCH Police officers stand guard as personnel of the Commission on Elections deliver vote counting machines to the Old Balara Elementary School in Quezon City. PHOTO BY RUY L. MARTINEZ

TIGHT WATCH Police officers stand guard as personnel of the Commission on Elections deliver vote counting machines to the Old Balara Elementary School in Quezon City. PHOTO BY RUY L. MARTINEZ

WITH just a few days left before the elections, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) raised the alarm on the possible massive disenfranchisement of voters that may cast doubt on the credibility and integrity of  the polls.

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The PPCRV, through spokesman Ana de Villa Singson, on Tuesday said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has been rushing things in so short a time although it admitted that these developments were not the fault of the poll body.

She noted that this is the first time since the automated elections system (AES) was first implemented in 2010 that major changes in the electoral process were introduced barely one month away from the elections.

Singson pointed out that on April 26, the commission was still passing multiple resolutions for general instructions on the upcoming elections.

“So many changes with so little time, a very deadly combination when thinking of the surgical precision needed in orchestrating the many moving parts in national and local elections,” she said.

What really concerns the PPCRV, Singson noted, was the decision of the Comelec en banc on replacement ballots, which, she warned, could result in massive disenfranchisement of voters.

The replacement ballot will come from the extra ballots allotted to other registered voters who fail to show up.

“That is a wonderful idea… but why do it a scant two weeks before elections? Why insert it on an already burdened system?” Singson asked. “How can we ever accurately estimate the voter turnout?”

“Let’s say we expect a 75 percent turnout. As such we think we can get 25 percent of the ballots as replacement ballots. But at the end of the day we find that 85 percent show up, that means that 10 percent of voters who rightfully should be able to cast their vote would have no ballot to vote with. That is disenfranchisement, is it not?” she said.

The Comelec, Singson added, failed to come up with implementing guidelines on the issuance of replacement ballots.

“When we are asking for the implementing guidelines, we are given the catch phrase that the board of election inspectors (BEIs) have the ultimate discretion in deciding whether to give a replacement ballot. We make our board of election inspectors vulnerable because they have no policy guidelines to fall back on,” she said.

The PPCRV insisted that even at this late stage, clear guidelines and examples of situations should be set down when replacement ballots may be given.

The Church-based election watchdog also expressed concern on the transmission of votes.

“In a hotly contested fight, which our national elections are, every single transmitted vote needs to be counted. And every transmitted single vote needs to be made transparent to all of us,” Singson said.

The PPCRV claimed that information was not provided by the Comelec on the schedule of disbursements and deliveries of election paraphernalia, and the volunteers were not allowed to enter Comelec hubs to check the counting machines.

“We begged for it and we are begging for it still,” Singson said. “This is a major concern for us who take our role to guard these elections literally and seriously.”

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