Comelec, poll watchers warn against 'illegal' sample ballots distributed on election day

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Comelec, poll watchers warn against 'illegal' sample ballots distributed on election day
Photo taken outside the Pinyahan Elementary School voting precinct in Quezon City and dated May 9, 2022 shows sample ballots littering the ground next to a police assistance desk.
Philstar.com / Franco Luna

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections warned against sample ballots that were reportedly being distributed outside of voting precincts around the country on Monday, May 9. 

Police officers stationed at the Loyola Grand Villas in Marikina City and Pinyahan Elementary School precincts in Quezon City confirmed that unknown elements were distributing the ballots. 

The ballots seen by Philstar.com urged readers to vote for presidential frontrunner Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his running-mate Sara Duterte.

It is unclear who was distributing the ballots, but Police Master Sergeant Nicolas Lapie of the Marikina Police District said one "Katrina Santos" introduced herself as a "poll watcher" with the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas before she got caught distributing ballots. 

Local police from both cities played down the incident, citing the lack of manpower and calling them an isolated incident. Besides the PNP, voting precincts are also secured by personnel of the military and the Bureau of Fire Protection. 

In Marikina, the cops stationed at the venue said they sent the woman away once they caught her, insisting this was an "isolated incident" considering things were "worse in other precincts." They added that the incident was "not a big deal" since they caught the woman earlier on.

At the Pinyahan Elementary School, sample ballots flooded the ground and nearby garbage cans; all this, despite a police assistance desk set up right outside the venue. 

"Marami kasing tao. Pinagsasabihan namin pero 'di namin kaya. Kulang kasi kami sa tao," Police Lt. Eugene Bulan told Philstar.com. (There are just too many people. We tell them to stop but we can't handle them all. We lack manpower.)

Sought for comment, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting area lead Limuel Lopez told Philstar.com that poll watchers were growing concerned about the countless sample ballots around the area. 

"The voters here are holding sample ballots but we don't know for which candidates...there's a police assistance desk outside, but I'm not sure if they're enforcing the rule," he said in Filipino. 

Other users on social media also reported sample ballots being circulated outside voting precincts around the country. 

At a press briefing Monday afternoon, Comelec commissioner George Garcia reminded the general public that giving out sample ballots on election day is prohibited. 

"Under our general instructions, campaigning is prohibiting, and if you give sample ballots, that's still sample ballots...We can go after candidates who authorize and distribute sample ballots," he said in Filipino. 

In a statement posted in its Facebook page, the Legal Network for Truthful Elections said the same as it reminded Filipinos to report to police or nearby authorities any cases of sample ballot distribution. 

“Can flyers and sample ballots be given outside the voting center? Answer: Campaigning is not allowed. This is unlawful electioneering,” LENTE said in Filipino. 

Marcos Jr. is running for the country’s highest seat in the land, marking his family's second attempt to return to Malacañang after the ouster of the clan patriarch. The two-decade rule of the clan patriarch was marked by outright abuse of human rights and massive plunder of state coffers.

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