Protect our sacred ballot
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - May 7, 2019 - 12:00am

The midterm elections are just a few days away and people are understandably trying to either boost or demolish the winning chances of candidates, depending on which side they are on.

Good thing that in an election season, we are more guarded in the face of negative campaigning. Whether one calls it mudslinging or simply pointing out factual allegations, negative campaigning is admittedly par for the course in our elections.

But what really mars an election campaign is ‘negative personal campaigning’ and spreading of false information about a candidate’s health or character. Somehow it gives us an inkling that those who resort to it are desperate about their candidate’s nil chance of winning.

I hope we can still stick to the real issues in the remaining days of the campaign. In Cebu City, we are still looking forward to the IBP Cebu City Chapter-organized debate between Mayor Tomas Osmeña and Vice Mayor Edgar Labella.

Labella’s last-minute pitch to postpone yesterday’s debate to this Friday reminds me about a joke shared by lawyers in the courtroom. A judge says “Call the case… are you ready, attorney?” and the lawyer confidently responds “Yes, your Honor! Ready to postpone.”

Another ubiquitous thing this season are election surveys, especially those conducted online and appearing in our social media feeds. A word of caution, you may not dismiss survey results but always treat them with a good dose of circumspection.

As a researcher in the academe, I know that surveys require expertise and time, and thus are expensive, both in the conduct of the survey itself and in validating the results. Yet, still they have margins of error. As they say, the only survey that matters is on election day.

On election day, the most crucial task for Comelec and basically everyone is protecting our ballot. Politicians can negative campaign all they want, but we urge the Comelec and everyone, including law enforcement agencies, to please be vigilant in protecting the people’s right to vote.

There are two types of election cheating that we must guard against; retail cheating and wholesale cheating. In retail cheating, partisan and non-partisan election monitors must guard against small-scale, voter-by-voter cheating.

These include vote-buying, paying opponent's supporters to stay home, and intimidating voters, election officials, or poll watchers. There is also ghost voting which is done either by voting under the name of a deceased person or by precinct-hopping to vote ahead, using the slots of those who have not voted yet. It’s a good thing there are enough safeguards set up by Comelec to prevent the latter from happening.

Wholesale cheating, on the other hand, includes hiring of goons to create disorder, or take over the precincts and fill in the ballots, or simply stop the voting in areas where the opposing candidates are perceived to be strong. There are also those “voter’s assistance” booths whose real aim is to misdirect registered voters in an opponent’s bailiwick to distant precincts where the voters’ names are not listed.

We must also guard against stealing of blank ballots and other election paraphernalia in political bailiwicks which is done to prevent supporters of a candidate from voting. Some candidates might also use a few corrupt or compromised police officials to selectively deploy so-called “checkpoints” in order to intimidate and prevent innocent and ordinary people from going to the polling precincts. The Comelec should put its foot down and take effective control to prevent such situations from happening.

The ballot, a symbol of our democratic aspirations, is too sacred a thing to be tampered with by anyone.

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