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Opinion

Make our votes count on e-day

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

From the time and motion study done by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), each voter would only spend about three to five minutes of time to cast ballots at the polling precinct. That is, if the voters come prepared with their “kodigo,” or a list of candidates they already chose for today’s national and local elections. Without any “kodigo,” the Comelec estimated it would take a longer time of about seven to ten minutes for a voter to complete all the procedures of casting the ballot.

Overall, a total of 18,023 electoral posts will be voted upon by 65.8 million Filipinos. Usually though, a little over 50 percent of the voting population actually go to polling precincts located in public schools that are strategically located at the centers of population all around the country.

There are ten candidates in the presidential elections and nine aspirants in the vice presidential race. For the Senatorial contest, there are 64 candidates vying to land in the top 12 line-up. For the party list representatives who are also elected nationally, there are 177 Comelec-accredited party list groups that aspire for the 62 seats for party list representatives in the next Congress. For the 253 regular legislative districts all over the Philippines, there are 733 congressional candidates running in the elections.

In the local elective posts, there are 281 candidates in 81 provincial governorships and 226 aspirants for 81 vice governors. A total of 4,486 candidates are running for mayor and 3,968 for vice mayors in 1,634 cities and municipalities. There are 1,951 aspirants for the 782 seats in the election for provincial board members. Another 35,636 candidates are vying for 13,558 councilor seats in all cities and municipalities all over the country.

Remember, voters will only shade one oval-shaped figure at the left side of the name of each candidate you pick per elective post indicated in the ballots. Shading more than 12 oval figures before the names of each senator is over-voting. The VCMs will void more than 12 Senate votes as well as votes more than the six slots for local council board members. The VCMs though accept under-voting.

If it is any relief for voters, the Comelec tallied 845 un-opposed candidates out of the total of 18,023 contested elective posts. However, our country’s election laws require only one vote for the un-opposed candidate to automatically win.

With so many names of the candidates printed in the ballot, a “kodigo” must be written down on a piece of paper, not via the cell phones.

Using the same Smartmatic vote counting machines (VCMs), the Comelec came up with this estimated voting time in our country’s conduct of the automated election system. As far as President Rodrigo Duterte is concerned though, Filipino voters should not be pressured on how fast or how slow they would cast their ballots. In a televised interview last Friday from Davao City, President Duterte suggested to voters to get “sample ballots” usually handed out at polling centers. Whether they will vote for these candidates or not, the President pointed out, the “sample ballots” can fill the gap for mental “lapses” and facilitate “name recall” of people whom voters really intend to elect into office.

“Nobody but nobody can question you if you have a list. You can save it. Don’t be in a hurry. Nobody will bite you. Nobody will hurry you up. Do it slowly so you won’t commit errors. Do not be afraid. That’s is your sacred right to be there and you can take time. Nobody will hurry you up,” the Chief Executive explained.

The President flew early last week to Davao City where he is a registered voter. On Friday night, he joined the miting de avance of his youngest son Sebastian who is running as Davao City Mayor under their regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) headed by presidential daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio who is up for VP election.

Today is the first-ever nationwide elections we are having after the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. With the pandemic still malingering here and elsewhere in the world for the past two years now, this is the crucial challenge for the Comelec to ensure today’s election will not turn into a super spreader event for COVID-19 infection.

This was why Comelec Commissioner George Erwin Garcia issued a strict warning as early as last week against “Marites” people. As one of the anti-COVID measures adopted by the poll body, Garcia used the popular colloquial name-calling “Marites” to describe people who spend time idly just to talk about the latest rumors. As far as the Comelec is concerned, these people will not be allowed to loiter nor stay longer than they should at the polling precincts.

Once a voter has cast his or her ballot, Garcia advised all voters to immediately leave the premises of the polling precinct. Since almost all areas around the Philippines have been downgraded to COVID Alert Level 1, the Comelec only requires the wearing of face masks inside all the polling precincts. However, social distancing and avoiding crowded, enclosed places such as in polling precincts are strictly implemented to include a ban against “Marites” people.

From the gentle reminder against “Marites” people, the Comelec vows to use the full force of the laws against the “Marisol,” as in sulsol (to egg on) through vote-selling and vote-buying, and against “Lastimoso” as in “lalaking tsismoso,” or those engaged in “fake news” or dis-information on election day.

These are just some of the added precautionary measures on election day to prevent another resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Comelec stands by the constitutional right of suffrage of every Filipino and that this should not be compromised amid the recent detection of a Omicron sub-variant-infected Finnish woman who arrived here in our country last April 23.

Given other additional anti-COVID measures such as temperature-testing of all voters coming in to polling precincts, the Comelec extended the voting hours from 6 o’clock this morning until 7 p.m. tonight. Let us make our votes count on e-day.

COMELEC

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