Voters will also choose the rest of the other national and local leaders who will run the government for the next three to six years.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Juan Andres Bautista on Sunday said all preparations to ensure a clean, honest, peaceful and credible elections are all in place, including contingency measures for any unexpected problems that may arise.
“As far as the Comelec is concerned, we are 100 percent ready. It’s all systems go. All counting machines and corresponding ballots have been deployed,” Bautista added. He added, however, that some kinks or glitches could still crop up along the way.
Malacanang on Sunday also said it’s all systems go for the May 9 elections as the Comelec, military and police organizations stand ready to ensure the safe and peaceful conduct of the polls.
In an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the entire government is well-prepared for “peaceful and honest elections” amid reports that the Aquino administration is plotting to “steal” the results of the voting in favor of Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd.
“In the aspect of security, the joint forces of the Armed Forces and the national police with the help of the [Comelec] are solidly behind the peaceful and safe conduct of the elections,” Coloma added.
“The DepEd [Department of Education] has ensured that all schools that will be used as polling centers are prepared and the teachers who will act as Board of Election Inspectors [BEIs] under the supervision of the Comelec are equally ready,” he said.
The Palace official allayed fears of a massive brownout, saying the Department of Energy has been coordinating with power sector providers to ensure a steady supply of electricity nationwide.
“We are one with citizen’s watchdog groups and other volunteer stakeholders who dedicate their time to help the Comelec,” Coloma said.
He noted that it is important to safeguard the integrity of the polls by working together to fulfill the responsibility of electing the country’s next leaders.
Coloma said even the international community is eagerly awaiting results of the elections, adding that the people should show determination to preserve democracy and good governance.
He said the outgoing government is prepared for the smooth transition to the next administration, assuring orderly turnover of systems and documents to the incoming government.
In vouching for their preparedness for Election Day, Bautista said the Comelec has carefully studied and corrected its mistakes in past polls.
They expect a 75 to 80 percent turnout among the 53,786,223 total registered voters, or 600 voters out of 800 for every clustered precinct, the poll body chief added.
Records show a 77.31 percent turnout during the 2013 mid-term elections, and 74.98 percent in 2010 when the Automated Election Law was first implemented.
For 2016, the Comelec has also increased the total number of clustered precincts to 92,509 with 800 voters assigned per precinct, an improvement from the 2013 mid-term polls of 77,829 clustered precincts with 1,000 voters per precinct.
The Comelec en banc has adjusted the voting hours from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. to encourage early voting and instill discipline among voters, and to allow as well the BEIs to finish their work earlier to include the transmission of election results.
Priority lanes are also provided for persons with disability (PWD), senior citizens and pregnant women, including day care centers where mothers can leave their children while they vote.
There would be health and legal assistance desks in every polling area.
Bautista assured the public, though, that all other safeguards and rules prior to the closing of the voting hours will remain.
“We will follow the rules. After 4:30 p.m., if you are within 30 meters from the polling precincts, you will be allowed to vote, you will be given numbers,” Bautista added.
“It’s the same rule [adopted]in the 2010 and 2013 elections,” he said.
Bautista added that the Comelec may extend the voting hours depending on the situation on the ground, with factors such as a heavy turnout of voters or any breakdown in the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) to be considered.
The Comelec, he said, has extra VCMs ready if some of the machines would malfunction, as well as extra generator sets in case of brownouts in some areas.
Declaration of faith
Meanwhile, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle also on Sunday reiterated his call to the faithful to go out and vote, pointing out that part of such responsibility is “to be discerning and analytical of the candidates.”
A similar call was also made by the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, warning voters against candidates who are morally and politically unstable.
“The Catholic Church has never asked any political candidate to seek its endorsement but the Catholic Church has always demanded of Catholic voters that they cast their votes as an act not only of citizenship but also as a public declaration of faith. We ask this most earnestly of all of you, Catholic brothers and sisters, in the forthcoming elections,” Villegas said.
The Catholic Church, according to Villegas, is apolitical but it is part of its mission to “pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.”
However, he assured the public that the CBCP would support “whoever wins honestly,” saying the bishops’ group would do everything so that the people, up to the remotest barangay (village), would rally around a just and God-fearing government that visits no vengeance on foes but is characterized by mercy and compassion for all, not only for allies.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), the country’s biggest labor organization, also called on Filipinos to vote for leaders who they think can address massive problems on poverty, contractualization, lack of job opportunities, poor wages, worsening crime situation and inadequate government service.
“The Filipino people have been confined in a very harsh wilderness due to past leaderships’ failures. They will select among the candidates they think a savior who can, at least, reduce the pain of their afflictions caused by irregular jobs, measly wages, rising criminalities, joblessness and inadequate government service,” TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay said also on Sunday.
Three presidential candidates, former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, Sen. Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay signed a contract with a coalition of labor federations and workers’ organizations calling for the repeal of the notorious and rampant contractual work scheme in the country.
The groups said regardless of who among Roxas, Poe and Binay wins, the minority President has a binding agreement with majority of Filipino workers to ensure that he or she would live up to his or her promise to end contractualization.
It was also noted that that presidential frontrunner Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to sign the document “puts into question his sincerity in fighting contractualization.”
Also known as “endo” (end of contract) or “5-5-5” jobs, this contractual work arrangement is characterized by hiring employees for only five months without security of tenure, paid with unlawful wages and without social protection benefits and privileges compared to what regular workers receive.
A total of 18,069 positions are up for grabs in the elections: President, Vice President, 12 senators, 58-party-list representatives, 235 district congressmen, 81 governors, 81 vice governors, 772 members of the Sanggunian Panlalawigan, 144 city mayors, 144 city vice mayors, 1,610 city councilors, 1,490 municipal mayors, 1,490 vice mayors, 11,924 municipal councilors and a governor and a vice governor for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and 24 ARMM assemblymen.
WITH JOEL M. SY EGCO