During first day: Thousands throng Comelec to register
(The Freeman) - May 7, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Thousands of residents from Cebu City's north and south districts lined up to register at the Commission on Elections office along Osmeña Boulevard even before the office opened its doors around 8 a.m. yesterday.

However, it was more of an ordeal for registrants of the north district, compared to those from the south. The line for north district residents was noticeably longer than the line for south district residents, with registrants spilling from the building's sidewalk and onto the street. The line for the north formed up to P. Burgos Street and even Legaspi Street.

Some north district residents who came to line up as early as 4 a.m. had to wait for hours before being served while those in the south district line did not have to wait that long.

North district residents complained of  the slow movement of their line, they blamed the lack of a proper system for the delay. Some said the line for the senior citizens, persons with disabilities and pregnant women, had to merge with the regular line due to the tight space. 

North district registrant Anthony Chopita gave up his place in the line to help organize queue after many became frustrated by the slow pace.

Even after the line for senior citizens, PWDs, and pregnant women had been organized, the seniors continued to complain. One of them told The FREEMAN they felt they were being serviced by lousy people who added to their confusion.

Rodolfo Mayola Jr., an employee of the south district of Cebu who was facilitating the flow of the line, assured that all of their personnel were being utilized and that none of them were idle. He said they also provided chairs for the regular registrants queue and the queue for those with special needs.

South district resident Carmelita Sucayre, 63, thanked the Comelec employees of the south district for the proper implementation of the special needs line. Anastascio Enot, 79, made the same commendation saying that despite the heat, he was comfortable and less hassled by the amount of people present.

North district election officer Marchel Sarno explained that it was due to the sheer amount of people present during the first day that they were overwhelmed.

He added that they put railings and tents in place to accommodate the people and all inconveniences will be addressed. He also reminded the public that the registration will last until October next year.

Sarno's counterpart in the south, Edwin Cadungog, said they have become used to this activity for years and have put plans in place in cooperation with Sarno. Both officers also asked the city government for more computers. They expect that after a month or two, the number of registrants will die down.

Comelec "insensitive"

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama criticized the Comelec for their "lack of sensitivity" because of the discomfort experienced by voters.

"I hate to see such scenery. The comfort of the constituents must be the priority. It's not fair to see people, senior citizens and children standing and roaming around, putting their lives in danger. The management lacks sensitivity," Rama said, adding that registration should take place in a safer and spacious venue.

In a separate interview, Sarno said Comelec cannot hold registration in another location as it needs more funds. However, Sarno said they are open to this idea if the city will extend assistance.

 "If the local government unit is willing to help we are okay with it," he said.

Comelec is planning to open a satellite office for registration including voter validation, reactivation, transfer, among others in the different barangays in the city. This, however, depends on the evaluation of the volume of applicants a day.

Hakot system encouraged…

Comelec-Cebu Provincial election officer Ferdinand Gujilde urged politicians to use the "hakot system" for their constituents…but only for voter registration.

 "Kay sa pag-abot ana sa deadline, kun duna sila'y (politicians) iparehistro unya mabalibaran, ingnon dayon nga ang Comelec duna'y gidapigan," he said.

He said there is a possibility that bulk registrants will be turned away at the last minute if they can no longer be accommodated.

 "So, para malikayan na, samtang wala pa nagdaghan ang mga tao ila ng iparehistro ilang mga paryente kay ila man nang mga tingali perspective voters, so ilang sigurohon," he added.

Gujilde said yesterday's registration was manageable and that Comelec anticipated the massive number of registrants for the first week, adding that the data capturing machines experienced no problems or glitches.

He, however, reported that some registered voters in Mandaue City crowded the city's Comelec office to register, thinking yesterday was the deadline.

For Cebu Province, 262,653 voters out of 2.54 million registered voters have incomplete biometrics data. Gujilde said Comelec office sent the letters three months ago informing voters regarding their lack of biometrics data. Those with incomplete data will no longer be allowed to vote in 2016 elections.

A complete biometric data should contain the voter's digital photograph, signature, and fingerprints.

"That's why mandatory ang biometrics para i-cleanse ang voter's list nationwide," Gujilde said, adding that the data would help in determining double or multiple registrations.

Comelec offices are expected to accommodate 200 transactions a day, Gujilde said. — Earl Homer C. Alcala, Kristine B. Quintas, Michael Vencynth H. Braga and Jean Marvette A. Demecillo/BRP (FREEMAN)

ANASTASCIO ENOT ANTHONY CHOPITA BRAGA AND JEAN MARVETTE A COMELEC DISTRICT GUJILDE LINE NORTH SARNO SOUTH
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