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Millions head to polls nationwide: It’s judgment day

(The Freeman) - May 8, 2016 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - It all comes down to this. Millions all over the country head to the polling places today to vote for the next national and local officials. So far everything is in place, according to the authorities.

Commission on Elections Commissioner Andres Bautista called on all voters all over the country to vote correctly.

"Tamang pagboto, tamang pagbilang. Ang tungkulin ng bawat botante ay bumoto ng tama. Ang responsibilidad naman ng Comelec ay bumilang ng tama," said Bautista when asked about his message to the 2.7 million registered Cebuano voters in Cebu.

Bautista also belied online rumors of pre-marked ballots for Liberal Party standard bearers Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo. Bautista said there are no pink lines on the official ballots contrary to the photos that have gone viral on social media.

"Hindi po totoo yan," Bautista said.

Power situation

Meanwhile, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines-Visayas spokeswoman Betty Martinez said they doubled their shifting of personnel in their substations as well as line personnel on call to deal with any power emergencies.

NGCP has assured that there will more or less 500 megawatts of reserved power for the elections.

The Visayan Electric Company also said more than a hundred personnel will be working both in their headquarters and in the field as part of the Election Contingency Team to facilitate fast restoration of power in case of electricity trip-offs and blackouts during the elections.

For minor electricity problems, VECO assured that they can restore the current flow within a minute since their entire system is digitally controlled remotely.

No bus fare hikes

Julieto Flores, spokesman of Cebu Provincial Bus Operators Association denied allegations that South-bound buses are increasing its fare due to the influx of passengers going home to their respective towns to vote.

"Wa mi mag-increase sa pletehan mao ra gihapon. Kadtong nagpa-increase sa ilang pletehan, palihug ko og kuha sa plate number unya ipadangat na ninyo nako ang inyong complaints," said Flores to those who may have been victimized by some unscrupulous bus drivers.

To handle the traffic, Cebu City Transportation Office Executive Director Rey Gealon said at least 300 field personnel will be assigned near polling centers in the city.

 "Voters are advised to walk towards their respective precincts to avoid delay or contribute to traffic congestion. Or must they bring their vehicles, they are advised to park them at designated parking spaces and not along the roads within a hundred meter radius from the precincts, otherwise, these vehicles will be towed away from the area and towards the South Road Properties impounding area," he said.

Gealon said this goes the same way for vehicles obstructing passage towards the precincts or parking along the sidewalks and pedestrian zones.

Poll reminders

Among the prohibited acts during today's election are distribution of election paraphernalia, campaigning, and providing free transportation, food, and drinks to voters. This was the reminder of Comelec-7 Director Jose Nick Mendros and Comelec Cebu City North District election officer Edwin Cadungog.

"We are prohibiting campaigning on Election Day. Magsuot ka ng cap, it's already a form of campaigning, 'yung jingle also," Mendros said.

He also reminded the voters not to argue with teachers who are serving as the Board of Election Inspectors, saying that BEIs have the authority to call security personnel in the voting center.

"The BEI has the authority to maintain the peace and order, and the orderly of the conduct of voting in the voting precinct," he said.

Cadungog said distributing sample ballots outside polling centers is also not allowed. While sample ballots are not merely prohibited inside the polling center, he said supporters of candidates should distribute it far from the polling centers.

"Actually, that (distribution of sample ballots) is not allowed. Ato lang silang buyagon. The law is not a hard and fast rule, so atong buyagon. Kon dili g'yud motuman, next time atong i-confiscate. Kon mobalik pa gali, atong pagawson sa lugar and later on, atong ipa-identify, it's up for the complainants to file particular cases," he said.

For even faster voting, Cadungog said voters should know their cluster precinct, precinct number and their sequence number before going to polling centers. For today's elections, he said there are two lanes - the ordinary lane and the express lane.

"Ordinary lane is for regular voters. Express lane is for the senior citizens, persons with disabilities, nursing mothers, pregnant women and persons or people performing election duties like the media, with I.D. police officers, teachers, hospital personnel, among others," he said.

However, he stressed Comelec will not prioritize those lining up for the express lane.

"Dili unahon ang express lane. Dungan na siya. Kon napulo ang gi allow sa BEI, then lima-lima," he said.

If there are hitches in the Vote Counting Machines of a certain precinct, he said there are 158 contingency VCMs for the whole of Cebu.

As for the ballots, he said the city has at least 630,006 since this is also the voting population of the city.

If there are errors that cannot be attributed to the voter, Cadungog said BEI will give him another chance to cast his vote but the invalid ballots will not be counted. He said ballots are specific to each polling precinct. — /BRP (FREEMAN)

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