by Krizza Lei T. Amoyan
[NEWSFEATURE] “You can only change the leadership during elections,” says Los Baños COMELEC officer Randy Banzuela as he encourages the voters to actively participate in the upcoming Barangay and SK elections.
Despite calls to postpone the 2013 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has held the voters’ registration almost a month ago. Few weeks before the election day, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is now gearing up for the planning and preparation for the smooth implementation of the elections in Los Baños this coming October 28.
Gearing up: Preparations for October 2013 elections
The voters’ registration was held last July 22-31 simultaneously in different barangays in the country. Voters for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) include the youth whose age ranges from 15-17, while those for the barangay election are composed of voters aged 18 and above.
For this year’s SK and barangay elections, the municipality of Los Baños has 30, 032 registered SK voters and 56, 856 regular [barangay] voters, this was as recorded by Commission on Elections (COMELEC)-Los Baños as of August 2013.
After the voters’ registration, the list of voters are then encoded for a better organization of the election files. With a thorough checking of the voters profile and after removing some of the deceased and transfer voters from the list, the voters tally is then submitted to the COMELEC main office.
After the submission of the voters tally, the COMELEC then assigned and prepared the polling precincts. According to Elections Officer Banzuela, there are 436 originally established precincts in Los Baños but as these precincts were clustered, only 182 cluster precincts remained, with each polling precinct accommodating a maximum of four hundred voters.
“These are only the initial preparations, so for now, our priority is the organization of the list of voters and the polling precincts, and the preparation of those who will sit as board of election tellers,” says Banzuela.
The filling of candidacy will run from October 15 -17 and the campaign period will run from October 18 to 27.
With the preparation for the upcoming election is the strict implementation of the election laws as provided for in Article XXII of the Election Code of the Philippines.
- Common poster area. COMELEC requires every barangay to designate a common poster area within the community where they will post their campaign materials. This is to prevent the candidates from posting everywhere (e.g. Walls, private establishments, lamp posts), as well as for easy cleaning after the election. Posting outside the designated common poster areas will be illegal.
- Gun ban. COMELEC strictly implements the gun ban as early as September 2013 to prevent election related killings and to maintain the peace and order. The gun ban prohibits the carrying of firearms outside the residence or place of business. Any person who, although possessing a permit to carry firearms, carries any firearms outside his residence or place of business during the election period, unless authorized in writing by the Commission will be charged.
- Alcohol ban. Selling, buying, or taking intoxicating liquor a day before and on election day is strictly prohibited. This is implemented to prevent election related crimes and violence, and to ensure a peaceful election.
- Distribution of campaign paraphernalia on election day. The election code prohibits the solicitation of votes or undertaking of any propaganda, on the day of election, for or against any candidate within the polling precinct. Electoral campaigns are strictly prohibited on the day of election because this may affect the decision of the voters.
Any person who will be found guilty of any election offense will be charged with the violation of election laws and may be punished by paying a fine or imprisonment.
The Team: Agencies and offices involved in the preparation
“During the election period, almost all government agencies are deputized by the COMELEC,” said COMELEC officer Banzuela.
Most especially, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is deputized for the peace and order. They are the ones who are assigned to monitor violations regarding the gun ban and alcohol ban, as well as to watch out for election related crimes.
The board of election tellers, composed of the teachers from the Department of Education (DepEd), are the ones who are expected to facilitate in the voting process and to monitor the honest outcome of votes.
The local government unit (LGU) is also involved in providing budget for the election. According to Banzuela, there is a portion which will be shouldered by the LGU regarding the funds for the cash payments of the board of election tellers and other expenses.
What we’re lacking: Election problems and issues
The ten-day registration period has been a national issue and many complaints from the voters have been reported, but Banzuela justifies that the ten-day period is just enough for the voters’ registration. He added that the COMELEC-Los Baños does not receive complaints from the voters regarding this issue, the “candidates” are the ones who are complaining.
Another issue is that there are these “candidates” who are starting they’re campaigns as early as now [before the campaign period]. “Hindi naman namin mapagsabihan dahil hindi pa namin sila sakop, they have not yet filed their certificate of candidacy, until such time na hindi sila nakakapagfile ng candidacy wala kaming magagawa”, explains Bazuela.
Also, one of the common issues during the election period is vote buying and vote selling. According to Banzuela, he has heard of many cases regarding this issue but no one is proven guilty. “Ang nagiging problema kasi ay yung mga witness, dahil sa haba ng proseso tinatamad na sila,” he said.
Information dissemination has also been one of the problems during the elections. Voter’s information regarding those who are running has been a problem because they do not know the candidates.
Banzuela doubts that the information presented in the campaign materials are sufficient for the voters to know the platform or programs that a certain candidate plans to implement. “Ang nangyayari ngayon, yung pagkatao ang pinagbabasehan, kung mabait ba siya, o pala-bigay ba yan, without even knowing or analyzing if he will be capable of the position he is running for,” explained Banzuela.