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Cebu News

NAMFREL pushes for alternative voting

Kristine B. Quintas/FPL - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) will continue to push for an alternative xx voting procedure for the next elections.

These include postal voting and mobile ballot box voting, which are part of Namfrel’s recommendations after the 2013 elections. Postal voting involves sending filled-out ballots thru mail while in mobile ballot box voting, election officers will personally visit voters in their homes, especially those who have physical disabilities so the latter need not go to the voting centers on elections day.

According to DamasoMagbual, NAMFREL membership committee chair and chairperson of the Asian Network for Free Elections, the present electoral voting system, which requires voters to cast their votes in their assigned polling precincts, is already “archaic.”

Magbual said Comelec has to adopt new forms of voting procedures, which are less costly and convenient, like the postal and mobile ballot box voting. He explained that Comelec will no longer spend much for advertisements and logistical expenses for elections, especially for overseas workers and PWDs.

“The proposed alternative voting procedures can be adopted to promote a convenient and less costly elections,” he said.

He said an overseas voters based in Jedah have to travel all the way to Philippine Consulate in Riyadh to register and vote, spending at least $2,000. Instead of spending the money to vote, he said the OFW would rather send it to his/her family in the Philippines.

He said postal voting is already proven effective in the countries of Sri Lanka, Bangkok, and Bangladesh. United Kingdom started it 60 years ago. He said the procedure is very feasible for the Philippines. The Comelec, however, has to put in place additional safety needs to avoid possible electoral discrepancies and other problems.

Magbual recounted that when overseas voting was introduced in 1998, a lady commissioner had a cash advance of P400,000 to go to Parish to promote overseas voting but only less than 100 OFWs voted.

“Is it worth what you spend? He asked. Aside from financial costs, he added that only few Filipinos abroad vote because “the law is very strict if not inimical to voting.”

“Ang problema sa Comelec kun nag-aral ka hindi ka kikita. Pag nag-bid ka ng contract kikita ka. Comelec is only interested in bidding. Puro biding-bidingan,” he said.

The mobile ballot box, he said is similarly convenient as it would not require voters to vote at their precincts. Sri Lanka and Indonesia are practicing this voting procedure, he said.

He said the government and Comelec have enough manpower and vehicles to undertake a mobile voting. Moreover, he said the congress passed a law to prioritize PWDs to vote in voting centers’ ground floor for their convenience.

Voting at polling centers where they are easily flooded is also a nightmare for PWDs. He cited that ground floors particularly in schools in Malabon, Manila are usually elevated and have stairs so PWDs have had a hard time accessing their precincts. With the scenario, he stressed that mobile voting is lot easier and convenient for all.

He said one of the changes in the country’s electoral system was the implementation of automated elections after 100 years since it started. An automated elections was one of the suggestions of Namfrel in 1992.

“With the advancement of technology these can be done. We are too archaic and old-fashion. Our Comelec does not like to study. They want to buy machines. They want machines to work for them,” he said. — (FREEMAN)

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