THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has refused to accredit the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) as its citizen’s arm.

Namfrel filed a joint accreditation request with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (CBCP-Nassa) for the May 2010 elections.

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However, accredited group Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and election lawyer Sixto Brillantes filed an opposition to the tie-up.

Poll officials said that although they laud the effort and recognize the intention of Namfrel and CBCP-Nassa, Comelec could not grant its petition because it did not show that it “truly desired” to be accredited.

Controversial

Poll officials also said the groups could not clearly show it has a tie-up.

Comelec also said it was avoiding a potential controversy because Namfrel founding chairman Jose Concepcion is very vocal on his preference for some politicians.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal earlier said the poll body does not see the need to accredit poll watchdog Namfrel because of the new automated system.

In previous elections, Namfrel was responsible for conducting unofficial quick counts of election results.

But since the 2010 polls will be automated, the poll body thinks an unofficial quick count is unnecessary.

“As soon as the data is sent to the server of Comelec, we will upload this to a secure website so people can already see the results of the elections right there and then so there might be no need for an unoffical quick count,” Larrazabal said.

Namfrel has been safeguarding the polls since the 1986 presidential snap elections.

The poll body has only accredited church-based PPCRV for Comelec’s voters’ education programs.

The fourth copy of the certificate of canvass will be given to the PPCRV as the duly accredited citizens’ arm.

In Cebu, Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal expressed disappointment over the decision. But he said groups like the PPCRV and the Cebu-Citizens’ Involvement and Maturation in People’s Empowerment and Liberation (C-Cimpel) can still take over the watchdog functions.

Reconsider

“Though I am disappointed that Namfrel’s accreditation was dismissed, here in Cebu we’re not affected because there is still the C-Cimpel,” said Vidal.

Vidal called on Comelec to reconsider its decision.

C-Cimpel executive director Marilou Chiongbian said her group can still get the fourth copy of the ERs through the PPCRV.

C-Cimpel, she said, has always been a member of the PPCRV, since it is a church-based organization.

As an accredited citizens’ arm, Chiongbian said they could get copies of the ERs.

Despite the automation of the elections, she said they still need more volunteers since they will still deploy them to all the precincts in Cebu to claim the ERs.

Meanwhile, with the apprehensions about the poll automation, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said her only wish is for ballots to be faithfully and credibly counted.

She also hoped that the results will convince the public that a true electoral process has been consummated.

“It does not help the country any with all this supposed rumors and speculations and intrigues. I would rather not add to this atmosphere of intrigue and speculations,” Garcia said. (Sunnex with RSA/JKV/CYR)