‘Work for credible polls’
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - May 8, 2016 - 10:01am

Comelec dismisses poll manipulation fears

MANILA, Philippines – As election violence continued and fears persisted that the polls would be rigged, Malacañang and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) assured the nation that the country is fully prepared to conduct an orderly and credible vote today.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said yesterday that authorities have addressed security issues, the reliability of power supply and  availability of public school teachers for poll duties.

Coloma called on the Filipinos’ civic spirit of “bayanihan” to help ensure the integrity of the elections, stressing that this was the responsibility not only of the Comelec and the government but of all citizens: “Napakahalaga ang pag-iral ng diwa ng bayanihan at ang sama-samang pagpasan ng responsibilidad sa ating mga balikat bilang mga mamamayan hinggil sa pagtiyak sa integridad ng ating pambansang halalan.”

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body expects a voter turnout of 75 to 80 percent from the time the precincts open at 6 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. in 36,788 schools converted into voting centers nationwide.

This year’s general elections have 54,363,844 qualified voters.

Both the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police are ready to help the Comelec ensure a peaceful, orderly and honest election, Coloma said.

The Department of Education has assigned nearly 500,000 teachers to comprise the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) in all 92,509 clustered polling precincts in 81 provinces of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Coloma added that the Department of Energy has talked with its power providers to ensure a steady supply of electricity today.

The Palace spokesman said there have been communications with “citizen’s watchdog groups” or those who render volunteer assistance to the poll body in making sure that it will do its job properly by counting accurately the votes and rejecting cheating.

Coloma said security forces will use “augmentation forces from their own operating units” to provide protection to public school teachers comprising the BEIs.

 Joint security assistance desks will also be set up in all polling precincts nationwide, aside from beefing up security in election hotspots or areas that have high probabilities of experiencing election-related violence.

The police have so far confiscated 3,500 guns for the duration of the gun ban.

Jimenez said the Comelec has sent about 5,000 vote counting machine (VCM) replacement units to seven regional hubs, in case some of the assigned units fail to work and need immediate replacement. The hubs are located in La Union, Laguna, Albay, Cebu, Zamboanga del Sur, Misamis Oriental and South Cotabato.

Jimenez said 44,871 candidates, including five presidential aspirants, are vying for 18,083 national and local positions.

He urged netizens to first verify the videos, news items or other election-related posts before sharing it in social networking sites, referring to insinuations posted over the Internet that the election results will be manipulated to favor some candidates.

The public, he said, is assured that the Comelec website is secure.

Jimenez said a voter would be allowed one replacement ballot if a VCM rejects the filled ballot and the rejection is not because of the voter’s fault.

He also advised voters to reject marked ballots and to refrain from wearing campaign shirts. – with Mayen Jaymalin

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