Comelec issues guidelines for foreign election observers
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - March 7, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has come out with guidelines for foreigners who wish to monitor the country’s second automated polls on May 13.

In Resolution 9652, the Comelec said any “foreigner or foreign group, organization, committee or association, representing government or private interests,” who may want to observe the elections, must file an application for accreditation with the agency’s Education and Information Department.

The period for the filing of application is from Feb. 1 to April 15.

Duly accredited observers can conduct interview with or attend briefings of candidates and political parties before election day; interview members of the Board of Election Inspectors and voters, document proceedings on election day, and observe counting and transmission of ballots and transport of the precinct count optical scan machines after the election.

The Comelec emphasized that accreditation comes with responsibilities.

“In choosing respondents for interviews, endeavor to apply objective criteria in order to ensure fairness and balance in their observations and conclusions. Ensure that all observers and monitors explicitly state, in all their statements to the media on Election Day, that their observations and monitoring activities, and that the same are not necessarily indicative of conditions throughout the country,” the Comelec added.

The resolution stated that violators of these provisions face one to six years imprisonment, and deportation after the prison term has been served.

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan called on the Philippine National Police and the Comelec to intensify efforts to curb the rising number of election-related violent in the country despite the enforcement of a gun ban.

“We have yet to hear of an election-related violent case that was investigated and that has led to the conviction of the perpetrators and masterminds,” he said.

Pangilinan recalled the torching in 2007 of a school building in Taysan, Batangas during the elections. The incident killed a teacher and another person.

“Clearly, more needs to be done to curb electoral violence in the country. We urge the PNP and the Comelec to do all they can to arrest those who, in trying to win at all costs, have murder on their minds,” he said.

Poll-related violence has already been reported during the campaign, with the killing of the mayor of Isabela being one of the high-profile cases. Recently, two electoral candidates in Masbate were shot a day apart from each other.

“The Maguindanao massacre where 58 people, including 32 media workers, were killed because of local politics should serve as a grim reminder to our police and election commissioners on how deadly election season can be in the country,” Pangilinan said.

Apart from the Comelec and the PNP, Pangilinan said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) must work double-time and outsmart these perpetrators to pinpoint the masterminds behind election-related violence and electoral fraud.

“It is only when we bring these cases to justice that we will begin to see genuine change in how political campaigns are being run in the country,” he said. – With Christina Mendez

BOARD OF ELECTION INSPECTORS COMELEC EDUCATION AND INFORMATION DEPARTMENT ELECTION ELECTION DAY FRANCIS PANGILINAN IN RESOLUTION NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION PANGILINAN PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE AND THE COMELEC
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