‘Ballots may be compromised’

THE Commission on Elections in Northern Mindanao (Comelec-10) urged voters to actively join in ensuring an honest May polls fearing that ballots may be compromised with the imposed storing of elections paraphernalia.

Lawyer Maria Dulce Chavez-Banzon, Comelec-10 assistant director, in a said Thursday that official ballots for Northern Mindanao will arrive in April 20 and will be shipped to the different cities and municipalities in the region.

Banzon said the commission is anxious about the way the election paraphernalia will be kept in the custody of the local government units (LGUs).

“We are fearful since it will be placed under the custody of the different city and municipal treasurers,” Banzon said in a media forum.

Banzon assured that the Comelec has been seeking the assistance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to safeguard the equipment.

“We are appealing for help from different political parties and election watchdogs in guarding these materials,” she added.

In 2010, mayoralty candidate Rolando Uy filed an election fraud against incumbent Mayor Vicente Emano after sealed compact flash memory cards, election returns, sample ballots, backup memory cards bundled in rubber bands which bore names of different clustered precincts in the city were scavenged at the landfill area in Upper Zayas in Barangay Carmen here and sold to a junkshop in the city.

Under the Omnibus Election Code, the treasurer’s office will only store election forms, official ballots, other election forms for the main memory cards, I-button security key, PINs, Precinct Statistical Report, Certificate of Receipt of Official Ballots, and other forms and supplies, by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs).

In an earlier interview, assistant city treasurer Vicente Quina welcomed the proposal to transfer election materials to a neutral ground after election watchdogs including concerned citizens raised doubts over the integrity of the city treasurer’s office after a May 2010 election fraud incident.

Comelec-accredited groups like the National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) along with the Crusaders for an Honest Orderly and Peaceful Election (Hope) want the poll materials to be kept in a neutral ground for safekeeping.

The Commission also urged residents to report violations, especially for common poster areas, committed by political candidates.

Under Section 18 of Comelec Resolution 9615, common poster areas (CPAs) “shall be allowed by the Election Officer only in selected public places such as plazas, markets, barangay centers and the like where posters may be readily seen or read, with the heaviest pedestrian or vehicular traffic in the City or Municipality."

“Candidates are not allowed to post their campaign materials on electric posts, trees and other public structures and only one Common Poster Area (CPA) is allowed in a Barangay with 5,000 registered voters or less. An additional CPA will be allowed for every increment of 5,000 voters,” Banzon added.

“Anyone can take photos or report any candidate violating the CPA rule and we will send them a notice,” she added.

Banzon said they haven’t filed a case against any candidate yet.

Smartmatic will not be participating in this year’s elections as the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines have already been bought by the Comelec.

A total number of 81,836 PCOS machines were acquired for the Comelec’s use.

The liquor ban has been set from May 9 to 13, 2013. (With a report from Angela Bernice Cabildo, XU DevCom intern)
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