Probe on election delays set-A A +A
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
MANILA -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the House of Representatives will hold separate investigations on the delays in the deliveries of poll materials that caused the postponement of barangay elections in some areas across the country.
The Comelec has formed a fact-finding committee to be headed by Commissioner Armando Velasco to investigate the delays in 2,460 villages.
“This is the initiative of the commission to look into the delays, based on the clamors of various groups. We want to ferret out the truth regarding this matter. I’ve been in the commission for four years and I’ve never seen this kind of delay,” Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said.
The delays earned the ire of President Benigno Aquino III, lawmakers, and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
The House, for its part, seeks for explanation on the delays in the deliveries of election materials that led to poll postponements.
As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, the Comelec said 18,936 or 45 percent of the 42,025 villages all over the country have proclaimed new leaders. Poll officials also expect a low voter turnout due to the delays.
Velasco said the committee has 15 working days to finish its probe.
Other members of the fact-finding body are Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, Comelec Electoral Contests Adjudication Division (ECAD) director Betty Pizana, Josefina De la Paz, Comelec secretary Josefina De La Cruz, representatives from local Comelec offices and a representative from the PPCRV.
The committee mulls inviting individuals who were directly involved in the process of printing and delivery of the election materials in the local Comelec offices all over the country.
“We want to include everyone who is related to the delay of the delivery, from the preparation and distribution. We want to get into the bottom of this,” said Velasco, adding that the result of the investigation will be submitted to the Comelec en banc.
Velasco added the committee will investigate the Comelec’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), which awarded the contract to suppliers of election materials, the National Printing Office (NPO) that printed the ballots, and the forwarding firms tasked to deliver the materials.
On Monday, Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the NPO operated on a very tight schedule of 16 days to finish the printing of millions of election forms instead of the original 45-day period.
Comelec legal department chief Ferdinand Rafanan, who chairs the BAC, said his committee is willing to cooperate to the investigation.
“It’s fine. We also want to know why there were delays. We will abide by the process,” he said.
The PPCRV, for its part, remains mum on the issue of the delays but welcomes the probe on the incidents.
PPCRV official Alice Saguid said they still have to wrap up its entire operations before issuing any formal statement. She said the group will have to consolidate reports from volunteers for their official assessment.
On Monday, PPCRV chair Henrietta De Villa asked the Comelec to investigate the cause of widespread delays in the distribution of election paraphernalia that resulted to the delays of polls in more than 2,400 villages.
The PPCRV also asked the Comelec to allow it to conduct its own probe.
Dasmariñas City Representative Elpidio Barzaga, who chairs the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, said his committee will hold its own investigation in the delays in deliveries of poll materials and the postponement of barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in several areas.
Barzaga said a committee hearing will be held on November 9 at 9:30 a.m., and officials from the Comelec and the Department of Interior and Local Government will be invited as resource persons.
In a text message, Comelec spokesperson Jimenez told Sun.Star that the poll body “welcomes the opportunity to address questions and concerns” at the House of Representatives.
President Aquino on Monday expressed dismay over the preparations, saying that those responsible for the delays should face appropriate sanctions.
The President declared Wednesday (October 27) a special non-working holiday in villages that were covered by the poll postponements, said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
Ochoa said Malacanang is leaving it up to the Comelec to release the list of areas to be covered by the proclamation.
The Department of Education (DepEd) has earlier declared a suspension of classes in all public elementary and high schools from October 26 to 27.
Meanwhile, the Comelec announced Tuesday that it will give additional P1,000 for teachers who will render extra poll works, specifically in areas affected by logistical delays.
Commissioner Larrazabal made the announcement in light of the education department’s plea to give additional compensation for teachers who served as Board of Election Tellers (BETs).
“When the proposal came up during the en banc session, we immediately approved it because the teachers deserve additional pay for this,” he said.
Larrazabal said the additional pay will be sourced from the agency’s savings, which he declined to elaborate. Teachers usually receive P2,000 as honorarium for a day of election duty.
However, the Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) found the latest development wanting. “We still believe that no amount of money can compensate the hardships suffered by teachers in line of election duty,” said TDC spokesperson Emmalyn Policarpio.
Divina Blas-Perez of the Elections and Barangay Affairs Department said Tuesday the Comelec has expected a lower voter turnout of 60 percent compared to the presidential elections last May, citing lack of interest and lingering effects of Typhoon Juan on affected residents.
She said 2,252 out of the 2,460 barangays affected by logistical delays last Monday were able to conduct elections Tuesday while 117 barangays are scheduled to have it Wednesday.
Of the 117, Perez said 19 barangays are from Dagupan City and the rest are in Tamparan, Lanao del Sur, Marawi City, Capiz, Negros Occidental, Libacao in Aklan, among others.
The affected barangays in Dagupan City include Bacayao Norte, Bacayao Sur, Calmay, Mangin, Tebeng, Lomboy, Barangay II, Salapingao, Carael, Lasip Chico, Mayombo, Poblacion Oeste, Bolosan, Lasip Grande, Tapuac, Pogo Grande, Salisay, Mamalingling and Lucao.
Elections in 41 villages, on the other hand, have yet to be determined by the seven-member Comelec en banc after these areas bore the brunt of Typhoon Juan (international codename: Megi).
The list includes 39 villages in Maconacon, Divilacan and Palanan in Isabela and barangays San Isidro and Salumague in Paniqui, Tarlac.
Liquor, gun ban
The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported Tuesday that more than 500 individuals were arrested for violating the liquor ban directive of the Comelec.
PNP spokesperson Agrimero Cruz said they arrested a total of 547 people for liquor ban defiance. The liquor ban was implemented starting at 12:01 a.m. of October 25 to 12:01 a.m. of October 26.
The PNP reported that it arrested 671 people for violating gun ban. It said it also confiscated a total of 558 firearms since the implementation of nationwide gun ban last September 25.
The National Election Monitoring and Action Center also listed 78 election-related incidents that took place since the start of the poll period on September 25 (39 fatalities, 14 injured).
Police forces are under strict instructions to remain in their posts to continue performing duty until after all election activities are completed. (Virgil Lopez/Kathrina Alvarez/Jonathan de Santos/Glaiza Jarloc/Liway C. Manantan-Yparraguirre/Sunnex)