is the comelec ready for
the may elections?
by Noel Bava, ds
1. In December last year, Comelec Chairman Bernardo Pardo issued a statement saying that, as opposed to the earlier planned computerization of the counting of the ballots, the Commission would not push through with it because of two reasons: a) insufficient funds given by Malacanang and; b) not enough time for the installations of the computers and training of computer operators considering, he said, that they need at least nine months for such nationwide coverage of the computerization.
2. Comelec's inability to apprehend violators of the political advertisement law. Justices of the Supreme Court voiced doubts over whether the Commission could enforce the law prohibiting political advertisements in the media. Justice Flerida Ruth Romero said that gauging from its track record, the Comelec "was unable to impose successfully" this prohibition. She cited candidates' posters on the pillars of the LRT along Taft Avenue which were not designated Comelec poster areas.
3. Comelec's "Task Force Tear Down" is powerless against political parties and candidates' posters. The Comelec said that they are indeed prepared to tear down illegally placed campaign posters. Commissioner Manolo Gorospe said that the Comelec field officers have started taking video footage and photographs of all political posters in Metro Manila for the possible filing of charges against the disqualification of violators. Dubbed "Task Force Tear Down," the team is composed of election officers, policemen and Army soldiers. they are to carry our Comelec Resolution 2961 on the common poster areas. After days of the creation of the said task force, posters of candidates still litter around the Metropolis.
4. Comelec common poster areas not clear. The Comelec warns candidates of their violation and possible disqualification should they continue to place posters in non-Comelec designated areas. However, the Comelec has yet to sufficiently inform candidates where the common poster areas should be. Gorospe's stand was a complete turnaround from a previous Comelec pronouncement that the poll body had no time and enough manpower to implement the common poster law. There shall be at least one common poster area in every barangay located in "strategic places where people habitually gather" or in "densely populated areas to ensure maximum exposure of the candidates' posters." Considered another violation was plastering posters over posters of another candidate, Gorospe said. This is now a common occurence as posters competer for space. Secretary Lamberto Llamas explained that for the poll body to charge a candidate with violating the law on campaign posters, he should be caught putting the poster himself outside the common poster area.
5. Comelec law favors politicos, parties. It appears that the law prohibiting political parties and candidates to overspend or get campaign funds from unathourized sources, although it bans such practices, is on the side of the great spenders and fundraisers. Section 14 of the republic Act 7166, for instance, on ly imposed fines ranging from P1,000 to P30,000 on candidates or parties that fail to report election contributions and expenditures. Moreover, it gives violators the option not to reveal the sources of their campaign funds, as long as they pay the fine. Worse, the law is helpless if a candidate tampers with his "statement of expenditures," because the Comelec has no mechanism to check it.
6. Tamper-proof IDs for Metro residents only. Voters in Metro manila will be issued tamper-proof identification cards to help forestall "flying voting" in the elections. The Comelec says they will release IDs for 5 million voters in Metro Manila. The Comelec has allotted a budget of some P500 million for the IDs and has awarded the task to print the IDs to the CSF computer firm. Only Metro Manila residents will benefit from this measure. Election-fraud hotspots in the provinces and especially in the Muslim region can not avail of the tamper-proof IDs.
7. Comelec can not push through with its promise to provide PPC-RV Volunteers with IDs due to lack of fund and time-constraint for the printing of such.
8. Comelec tasked private firms for the printing of ballots. Private firms are very vulnerable to political pressures and monetary considerations.
9. Padded voters' list still remain "uncleansed." Sr. Rose Mallilin of the NASSA pointed out that in the municipality of Las Pinas the number of the voters have swelled to a staggering 144%, more than the number of the municipality's residents. One source said that we now have at least 3 million flying voters all-over the country out of the 34 million registered voters for the May 11 elections. There are about 1,000 flying voters per municipal district that can vote up to five times for their candidates.
10. Party-list incomprehensible for the majority of the voters. The Comelec seems to be taking it easy on the issue of the party-list system to be tried for the first time in the May polls. Even public school teachers are complaining about the complexity and the ambiguity of the said system. However, the Comelec has not prepared enough paraphernalia and materials explaining the nature of the party-list election process. Information dissemination were not also evident in the local municipal districts or in nationwide campaigns. Critics blame Comelec for sowing confusion to the voters.
11. Clergy, Joe Con ban in the election participation. The Comelec earlier planned of banning Jaime Cardinal Sin and Namfrel Chairman Joe Concepcion from participating in the electoral process. The ban was lifted but Joe Con was singled out by the Comelec because according to them, he is a partisan politician being the barangay chairman of Forbes Park Makati. Under the Constitution however, the barangay chairman and councilors are considered non-partisans and are even encouraged to join in the election process as leaders of the barangay.
12. Gun ban will not be strictly and effectively enforced. A Comelec provision calls for the disqualification of any candidate whose bodyguards are caught violating the gun ban. However, some candidates disagree with this provision saying that they could not be held liable for any illegal act committed by their subordinates. Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, a re-electionist thinks that the covenant, although signed by several candidates, will not be enforced.
The Comelec, to win the people's trust that they are indeed ready for the May 11 elections, should address first the issues confronting them and their credibility as poll body. If the Comelec will continue to act or issue orders contrary to the people's Constitution, they will have difficulty in earning the people's confidence. The people will continue to doubt whether the Comelec--the proclaimers of their future leaders--are working for them or against them.
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