A woman casts her vote during mock elections held at Toro Hills Elementary School in Quezon City yesterday.
Boy Santos
Comelec 90% ready for midterm elections
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — With the May 13 midterm polls still four months away, Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez yesterday claimed that the poll body’s preparation for the upcoming polls is 90 percent complete.

“But as you know very well, it is the last 10 percent that takes forever,” Jimenez said.

Among the tasks that need to be done before Election Day is the printing of the more than 60 million ballots and the release of the official list of candidates who would be running for national and local positions.  

But Jimenez could not guarantee that they would start the printing of ballots by next week.

One factor is that there are ongoing repairs at the National Printing Office (NPO) that is tasked to print the ballots “so it could affect the start of the printing.”

There is an ongoing construction at the NPO and the place has become dusty. They could not risk bringing to the NPO the vote counting machine (VCM), that would be used in counting the printing of the ballots, because it might be damaged by the dust.

“If by this weekend the construction would be finished and they would be able to clean the area and remove the dust, then we could proceed with the printing, otherwise there might be some delay,” he added.

He said that the delay in the printing could be up to five days.

“We just want to make sure that the process in the verification would not be affected because the printing is fast, it is the verification of the ballots that takes a long time, that is tedious because each ballot is manually fed into the machine.”

“But you know in terms of the logistics, in terms of the structures, partnerships all of those are falling into place,” he added.

At noon yesterday, Jimenez checked on the progress of the electronic transmission of the votes to their transparency server located at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center.

“So far at the mock elections, we are proceeding very smoothly. We are seeing good mix of insights coming from our observers from the ground,” he said. 

He said they did not expect the mock polls to be perfect and that is “exactly what we want because that is what we expect to see on Election Day such as there would be a low turnout of voters, while some voters would have difficulty in finding their names at the polling precinct. We are checking the procedures that we have to deal with in those cases. So as far as being an evaluation tool is concerned, it is good to have a mock election.”

For this year’s mock polls, the Comelec prepared 60 locations all over the country, 57 of which had 100 names of voters, while the remaining three sites in the National Capital Region (NCR) each had almost 1,000 voters. 

For the 57 locations, the election period was until noon while at the three other locations, voting hours were until 6 p.m. yesterday. 

The Lungag Elementary School in Digos City, Davao del Sur was the first polling center to transmit their votes recorded at 12:14 p.m. The first province to finish transmission was Sulu.

It was also noticed that Region 9 or the Zamboanga Peninsula was the last to transmit their electronic votes because there was a heavy cloud cover in the area that caused delay in the transmission. They had to resort to other modes to send data. 

The Comelec will look into a viral social media post about the use of President Duterte’s Help Line + 8888  to promote the candidacy of the administration’s senatorial bets in the May 13 midterm polls. 

According to Jimenez, the poll body will coordinate with the National Telecommunication Commission to determine the authenticity of the text supposedly sent through Help Line +8888.

This is the Help Line of Malacañang that is dedicated to address complaints against fixers, scalawag civil servants and poor government services.

Jimenez noted under the law, it is prohibited to use government facilities for partisan politics.

“We will confirm with other agencies. For now, we cannot be certain if that particular +8888 is government funded,” he added.  

The official said that although premature campaigning is not yet punishable since the campaign period has not officially started, they are already monitoring “potential violations.”

Under Comelec Resolution 10049 promulgated on Feb. 1, 2016, the sizes of campaign posters shall be limited to only 2 feet x 3 feet while streamers shall not exceed 3 feet by 8 feet. These must be displayed in common poster areas identified by the agency’s election officers.

Jimenez maintained that unlawful campaign materials will have to be taken down before the campaign period for national and local candidates on Feb. 12 and March 29, respectively. – With Sheila Crisostomo

2019 MIDTERM ELECTIONS COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS
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