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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, February 29, 2016
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As poll body beefs up
vote count transparency

The Commission on Elections, in the spirit of transparency, is adding another feature to its vote counting machines for the May 9 polls, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said Saturday.

Members of the Comelec en banc have agreed to allow the use of the screen monitor in the vote counting machines for the verification of one's votes , and a resolution will be passed on this soon, she said.

Earlier a Comelec en banc resolution did not to allow the screen monitor because it would add more hours to the voting, Guanzon said.
But, in the spirit of transparency, they have since agreed to use the screen monitor that for 15 seconds will reflect the votes on the ballot, she said.

If the voter is satisfied that what appears on the monitor reflects his or her vote, a green button can then be pressed for the ballot to be cast, she said. If a voter forgot the name of a candidate, he or she can press a red bottom for the ballot to be returned so another name can be shaded, Guanzon added.

This will add three hours more to the voting process and another two hours for the teachers to do all the paper work and formalities before the election returns are transmitted, she said.

The training of Board of Election Inspectors on the use of the vote counting machines in Negros Occidental will start March 1, she reiterated.

NIR OFFICE

On the creation of a Comelec Negros Island Region office, Guanzon said she suggests that the governors of Negros Occidental and Oriental write the commission en banc to request for it.

Last year, the president issued an order that all national offices should have regional offices operating in the NIR by January this year, but the Comelec has yet to create one.

Guanzon said she mentioned this in a Comelec en banc meeting along with another commissioner, since the PNP and Army already have NIR regional offices, and they have to match them.

But it was not scheduled on the agenda by Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, she said.

The provincial election supervisor of Negros Occidental reports to Region 6 and the one in Negros Oriental reports to Region 7, but they deal with the NIR regional heads of the police and Army, she noted.

“The reason why there is a new (Negros Island) administrative region is for efficiency,” she said.

ILLEGAL POSTERS

Guanzon said the Comelec in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental that have been conducting “Operation Baklas”, a campaign to remove illegal campaign materials, and some national candidates and one partylist group have been found violating the Fair Elections Act.

She said Comelec officers in the field have been instructed to submit inventories of all the illegal campaign materials removed to the poll body's law department for investigation for violations. These could also be used as a basis for determining campaign spending, she said.

She cited the case of Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon Ejercito who was removed from office for over-spending during the campaign period even after he was already serving as governor.

Guazon said they are appealing to the candidates to take down all illegally posted campaign material bearing their faces and names.

They should comply with the rules to ensure a fair election, if they remain defiant it will reflect the kind of leaders they will be, she said.

Candidates can say they did not put up the illegal campaign materials, but if they benefit from them, they should be responsible for them, she said.

What kind of leaders will they be it they are unfair to poorer candidates who cannot afford such campaign materials, and refuse to comply with the law? she asked.

That is why there is a Fair Elections Act to limit candidates' spending, she said.

It will be unfair to the other candidates if we just let them to do whatever they like, she said.

On oversized campaign materials on private property, Guanzon said the “Team Patay Team Buhay” tarpaulins of the Diocese of Bacolod in front of the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod were different, the Supreme Court sustained the Church on freedom of speech as they were a reflection of its church stand on reproductive health, the tarpaulins were not considered campaign materials.

“To cover a whole building with tarpaulins just because it is private property in my opinion is illegal,” she said.

“The Supreme Court decision in the Diocese of Bacolod case does not apply, it's the Fair Elections Act that will apply,” Guanzon added.

The Comelec prohibitions on illegal campaign materials already applies to national bets, but will cover local bets on March 25, Guanzon said.*CPG

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