CEBU CITY -- There won't be enough teachers to serve as election inspectors or schools to use as polling centers, so the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will cluster precincts for the barangay elections in three months.

Some barangay officials oppose the plan, saying it was the decision to cluster precincts that delayed the voting process last May 10.

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Long lines caused the most number of complaints and marred an otherwise favorable assessment of the country's first automated elections.

The Cebu City north district election officer, lawyer Marchel Sarno, assured that in the barangay elections on October 25, the clustered precincts will be composed of not more than three precincts.

Only precincts within the same barangay and the same voting center will be grouped.

Under Republic Act 8189 or the Voter's Registration Act of 1996, each precinct in the barangay shall have not more than 200 voters.

As soon as the limit is reached, a daughter precinct will be automatically created to accommodate voters within the territory of the original precinct.

For the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, Sarno said an established SK precinct will be distributed or attached to a clustered precinct of the same barangay and the same voting center that has the lowest number of registered voters.

The total combined number of registered voters for both barangay and SK elections should not exceed 500 per precinct.

Rita Sabal, village chief of Barangay Babag, said she opposes the Comelec's decision to cluster the precincts in October.

"It will be less crowded if the precincts are not clustered. Kon i-cluster man gud, magtapok ang mga botante pareha sauna unya hinay ang sistema, saputon na dayon ang mga tawo, mapul-an ug hinulat so manguli na hinuon (If we cluster them, the voters will get impatient, especially if the system is slow, and might choose to go home instead of voting)," she said.

Barangay captain Eliodoro Sanchez of Busay said clustering the precincts, particularly in the mountain barangays, will not work.

"The classrooms in the mountain areas will not be conducive and there won't be enough space for a big number of voters. Basically, clustering delays the voting process. Lisud kaayo gyud (It's going to be difficult)," he said.

Sanchez also said the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) still has to go over many lists of voters if the precincts will be clustered, before voters can get their ballots.

During the May 10 elections when precincts were clustered, flaws like poor crowd control and the long lines in the polling precincts contributed to a lower-than-usual turnout of voters.

The resolution Comelec promulgated last Thursday states the individual precinct number of the clustered precincts will be retained.

Each individual precinct will also maintain its separate Election Day Computerized Voters List, Posted Computerized Voters Lists and Book of Voters.

"In no case shall it be consolidated or merged," the resolution states. Each clustered precinct, Sarno said, will have three members in its BEI.

He assured that Comelec is prepared for the barangay and SK elections on October 25, denying reports the barangay polls will be postponed until next year.

"Everything is clear and we will be able to conduct the barangay elections on October 25," he said.

Only Congress can postpone the elections, "but I doubt they will do that now," he added.

Comelec has ordered the registration of voters for the barangay and SK elections until July 31. (PDF of Sun.Star Cebu)