100-day election countdown starts Fun run kicks off campaign for clean, peaceful polls

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – A fun run yesterday around the square in front of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) main office in Intramuros kick-started the 100-day countdown to the May 9 local and national polls.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista led the fun run, accompanied by running priest Robert Reyes and several others from the poll body and urban poor groups.

Bautista and Reyes dramatized their call for clean elections by carrying broomsticks during the run.

“We need the help of the public and the media to make sure that our elections will be orderly,” Bautista told reporters after running around Plaza Roma.

The elections chief said that while it is the duty of the Comelec to count the votes correctly, “voters have the responsibility to vote right.”

He admitted the Comelec is behind schedule in its preparations, but stressed that it is coping nevertheless.

“It’s hard to put in percentages, but yes, we are still trailing,” he said when asked how much catching up the poll body would have to do.

“But we are just continuing with our preparations. We don’t want to rush because the more you rush, the more you may commit mistakes,” he explained.

Bautista assured the public that the Comelec is in a better position today in preparing for the general elections than when he joined the poll body in April 2015.

“We now have a good momentum. We can catch up with our timetable,” he added.

The Comelec is behind schedule in the printing of ballots, finalizing the list of candidates, completing the source code certification and the holding of mock elections.

Printing of official ballots has been set back twice to Feb. 8, five days after the final list of candidates would have been drawn.

“Elections should not only be clean but also meaningful. The Comelec needs to be at the forefront in helping the people do their part in having clean and meaningful elections,” said Reyes, who also sits on the Board of Trustees of the Clean Air Advocates of the Philippines.

“If the Comelec does not measure up to the people, the people will sweep them away. Even if they have fixed terms in office, we all know that they can be impeached. If we learn that they are part of the election cheating, they must be swept away,” he added. 

Warehouse inspected

Later in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Bautista inspected the rented warehouses where 64,824 vote counting machines (VCMs) are being stored.

Bautista noted there are other VCMs being readied for release by the Bureau of Customs.

“I‘m not sure how many machines are in Customs but the deliveries are as scheduled,” he said.

The VCMs are undergoing testing and configuration at the warehouses owned by Jam Liner bus company.

He also inspected some of the ballot boxes being kept in one of the warehouses.

The Comelec refused to show two other warehouses to the media as the poll body is set to visit the facilities on Feb. 3.

Bautista also reported no “untoward incidents” concerning Comelec’s “field-testing” in 32 public schools across the country.

“But the transmission was not yet tested. We need to test that as well,” he pointed out.

The field-testing was done in preparation for the mock elections that would be done in 30 areas nationwide on Feb. 13.

In 2010 and 2013 polls, the mock polls were held in five and 10 places, respectively.

Bautista said the holding of mock election is important as it would provide a preview of what may transpire on Election Day itself.

In Cebu City where the 51st International Eucharistic Congress is being held, Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal urged wannabe politicians to uphold honesty in public service.

Vidal, in a wheelchair, made a quick visit to the pavilion accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo.

“Be honest,” Vidal said when sought for his message to political candidates.

Vidal also said politicians must not promise what they cannot fulfill and they must be truthful in their campaigns. He said politicians should respect people’s beliefs and culture.

The cardinal also disclosed that some local politicians visited him at his home in Banilad, Cebu City. He did not name them.

But he said presidential candidates Rodrigo Duterte and Jejomar Binay went to his house one after the other, but he was not around to welcome them.

He said he has no idea yet who are the “qualified” political aspirants.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle also made an appeal to politicians to value the trust of the people and not stain it with things that are an affront to God.

“Trust is a gift from God. Show it in your service,” he said.

Last Thursday, Tagle assailed some politicians for promoting the throwaway culture, as he pointed out the widespread bribery and corruption in government and even in businesses. He said such practices are inconsistent with Christian living.

“I mentioned the politicians in terms of the culture of throwing away. I was really pointing out – being in politics means to have earned the trust of people. You were elected because people have trust in you. Don’t throw away the trust of people. Return it as a gift,” he said.

“Politicians, will you throw away people’s taxes for your parties and shopping, or guard them as gifts for social service?” 

During his visit to the Philippines last year, Pope Francis called for honesty and integrity among political leaders and urged Filipinos to reject corruption.

Pope Francis recognized that the country is facing the challenge of building a just and humane society as its people are confronting new and complex political and ethical questions.

The Philippines is Asia’s largest Catholic nation whose progress is being hampered by rampant corruption.










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