ELECTION SERIES: Trust the system, Comelec pleads

THE COMELEC has appealed to voters to have faith on the system, given the security plans and number of personnel  supervising the voting and counting process.

Comelec-XI assistant regional director atty. Marlon Casquejo said precinct personnel are well trained on the process involved in voting and processing the ballots.

“BEIs are trained with the vote counting machine last March for two days,” he said. “The chairman and poll clerks have also received DOST certification.”

In essence, this makes them capable of basic troubleshooting of machines.

“The machine isn’t perfect but potential problems can be resolved by [pre-set] contingency measures,” he said.

Although the vote counting machine can power itself, Comelec will still fuel generator sets for precincts far from the city for use of other facilities. This is meant to help continue the work of BEIs because the elections won’t stop at 5 p.m., he said.

The usual difficulties encountered by BEI include travel to their assigned precincts, especially for those assigned in far-flung areas like the city’s district 2 and 3.

Comelec-XI election assistant Nelita Gestosani said there are 3,840 BEIs in Davao City (1,280 will be assigned per district).

There shall be one BEI composed of a chairperson, a poll clerk, and a third member per precinct.

One support personnel from Comelec will likewise be assigned to every four clustered precinct. At least 800 voters are expected to cast their votes in every cluster.

All BEI chairpersons and members shall receive P1,000 a day (a total of P3,000 for the three-day service).

Each teacher will also get P500 for the verification and sealing of the Book of Voters, final testing and sealing of the vote counting machines, and transportation allowance.

BEI members are mandated to conduct the voting and counting of votes in their respective polling places as well as act as deputies of the Comelec in supervising the conduct of elections in their precinct.

Teachers related within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to any candidate to be voted for in the polling place or the candidate’s spouse are not qualified to serve in the BEIs.

Allegations of cheating have hounded the absentee voting process as some Filipino abroad have posted their gripes on social media about the receipt showing different candidates other than the ones they voted.

But those allegations could not be veted.

Preaching patience

One thing that the system could not anticipate, however, is people’s behavior.

Mariebeth Madriaga, a high school teacher from Leon Garcia National High School, has been serving as a BEI in both local and national elections since 2006.

She shared that the automation of elections has significantly improved the voting process in precincts. But the behavior of some people on election day can be unpredictable.

“Some forget manners, while others are not patient enough to wait for their turn,” Madriaga said.

She added that working conditions of BEIs vary per situation. Her previous experiences taught her that managing voters in precincts in far-flung areas are easier because these people just “vote and go”

“But voters who are usually based in the city like to linger in the precinct to keep an eye on the ballot box, with fears that this might be jeopardized,” she said.

On the bright side, she added that concerned barangay personnel in far-flung areas are also accommodating when it comes to transportation, food, and place to sleep should duties require BEIs to stay beyond work hours.

Elections secure

Davao City Police Office spokesperson, Chief Inspector Milgrace Driz, said the election watchlist areas in the city include 11 barangays located in Marilog, Paquibato and Baguio districts.

Based on their final conference with AFP and Comelec, they will beef up security personnel with augmentation from the regional public safety battalion, and the recruits from their regional training center.

Territorial local police will act as team leaders for the police deployed from the regional headquarters.

She said that a total of 3,000 personnel (including force multipliers) will be in charge for securing precincts on election day.

“We will be situated 100 meters away from polling precincts and we will ensure that people will be carrying weapons in precincts,” she said. The large number of personnel to be deployed, she hopes, will ensure that vote counting machines will reach the city treasurer’s office safely when the day ends on May 9.

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