PPCRV attracts youth volunteers to encode election returns

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
PPCRV attracts youth volunteers to encode election returns
PPCRV volunteers count votes in the partial unofficial tally in the Quadricentennial Pavillion, UST, May 11. Bongbong Marcos Jr. leads the polls.
Philstar.com / Jazmin Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines — A parish-based poll watchdog has attracted thousands of youth volunteers to help out on the operations of its unofficial parallel count of Monday’s polls. 

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) recently made rounds online as more of the country’s youth signed up to encode election returns (ERs), surprising even its organizers. 

“Before the elections, we were very low with the volunteer count in the sign-ups, it was only election night when everything blew up,” Director for Youth Affairs Jude Liao told Philstar.com on Thursday.

The PPCRV-Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas command center is housed at the Quadricentennial Pavilion at the University of Santo Tomas.

An accredited citizen’s arm of the Commission on Elections, the PPCRV receives the fourth copy of the pre-transmission ERs that are printed by vote counting machines from across the country.

Volunteers manually encode each ER into its system to cross-check the electronically submitted ERs with the pre-transmitted data on print to see if there would be anomalies. Each shift for encoders lasts for an hour and a half. 

The PPCRV houses nearly a thousand volunteers daily that run the operations of the command center, eclipsing the 200 daily volunteers organizers were expecting. This already includes walk-ins and those who register online.

“They’re so young, they’re so heroic, they’re so generous and I’m really touched and inspired,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a press briefing on Thursday, getting emotional.

Overwhelmed with volunteers

When they started encoding Monday evening, the PPCRV floor only had about 500 volunteers. The number has since grown to almost 1,000 daily.

“Since May 9, Monday, we have logged close to 4,500 volunteers that would cover the encoders, the volunteers, the food donation receiving, food distribution, batching and sorting, and all the other volunteers that you see distributing food,” Liao said.

The PPCRV said they were able to mobilize more people despite the pandemic because of social media. 

On top of the 4,500, the PPCRV also mobilized 500,000 individuals to volunteer as poll watchers, to collect the fourth copy of the ERs, supported the voter’s assistance desk across the country on election day as well as help with its voter’s education efforts.

Mark Ferrer, who is on his third day volunteering to encode the ERs, said the work has so far been “very fulfilling.” Ferrer is considered a “walk-in” volunteer, saying he waits for hours in line before he gets to do the encoding.

“I believe that we need to protect our votes at napansin ko rin naman as a youth of this generation, we want a clean elections and we want to elect yung kung sino man ‘yung nararapat,” Ferre told Philstar.com.

(I believe that we need to protect our votes and I noticed as a youth of this generation, we want clean elections and we want to elect whoever is the right leader.)

While Ferrer admits that he has doubts over the polls, the encoding process has helped him accept the outcome.

“As I encode all the votes, dun ko slowly natatanggap yung mga nangyayari and ayun, parang at least nare-relieve ako (I slowly come to terms with whatever is happening and I feel a little relieved), I can somewhat feel the sense of fulfillment on my part,” Ferrer said.

Some of the PPCRV’s volunteers are Millie and Nikkie, who were the youngest volunteers at the command center yesterday. They were apparently accompanied by their parents.

Food and more food

Aside from encoders and volunteers who man the whole show at the command center, the PPCRV has also been overwhelmed by the flow of food donations. 

They apparently receive 200 to 300 boxes of food everyday as well as 200 packs of water from private citizens and private groups.

“Mostly naman napapamigay namin. ‘Yung mga biscuits, pinapamigay na namin to the volunteers na nasa taas na nag-e-encode, ‘yung water sino-store muna namin somewhere else kasi sobrang dami talaga,” Marco Bayta told Philstar.com. 

(We are able to give them away. The biscuits, we distribute them to the volunteers upstairs who are encoding, while we first store the water bottles somewhere else because we really receive a lot of them.)

“Tapos ‘yung perishable naman, ‘yung hot meals, pinapauwi na rin namin sa volunteers instead na mapanis,” Bayta said.

(And then for the perishable food donations, like the hot meals, we give them away to the volunteers to take home instead of going to waste.)

Bayta said he volunteered as an encoder last Tuesday before he opted to help out with the food distribution. 

‘God knows your sacrifices’

Along with the many young volunteers, PPCRV Director for Youth Affairs Liao said there are also those from older generations who help out with their operations. 

Some also travel from as far as Bulacan just to help out at their command center.

“PPCRV volunteers, hindi namin kayo pwedeng bayaran (we are not allowed to pay you). Hindi namin kayo bayad (We don’t pay you) because only God can pay you and God knows your sacrifices and the Lord knows the good hearts of these young people,” Archbishop Villegas told reporters.

Archbishop Villegas said the polls gave Filipinos a chance to see “how divided” the nation is and how much it needs “healing.”

While Filipinos here and abroad have already cast their ballots, the PPCRV is working to ensure that those are accounted for correctly. 

As of Thursday morning, PPCRV spokesman Van de la Cruz said the command center has received 24,640 ERs out of the over 100,000 it is expected to encode in the next few days. It has so far encoded 16,820 ERs as of 11 a.m. yesterday, which yielded a 100% match with the electronically transmitted ERs.

“We make sure that the votes count and the votes are clean, honest, accurate, meaningful, and peaceful,” Liao told Philstar.com.

A number of Filipinos are keeping watch on the PPCRV count to see if there are anomalies. This year’s elections saw over 1,800 vote counting machines experience issues in the middle of the voting period, leaving some voters still in queue to cast their ballots even hours past 7 p.m.

PPCRV volunteers have called on the public to stop sharing unverified claims about what happens within the command center.

“‘Wag nalang tayo magspread ng fake news, lalo na kasi minsan nakaka-affect din samin dito inside. So far wala namang nangyayaring bad,” Bayta said. 

(Let’s not spread false information, especially since this can affect everyone here inside. So far, nothing bad has happened.)



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