gun ban

Comelec: Poll results known in 3 days

Comelec: Poll results known in 3 days
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The results of the country’s first automated general elections will be known within three days.

This was announced by Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez after business groups said they feared the new system would fail.

The Philippines has brought in the nationwide automated system to replace the laborious manual system that took weeks to tabulate results, but influential business groups have called for a manual count as a backup.

In a statement Wednesday, the Management Association of the Philippines urged the Comelec to adopt a parallel nationwide manual count for the president and vice president to “mitigate, if not eliminate, the skepticism of many about the credibility of the automated election system and the results that it will deliver.”

The Comelec is prepared to shift to a manual count if ballot-counting machines fail to function in up to 30 percent of more than 76,300 precincts nationwide during the May 10 polls, said Jimenez.

A failure to elect a successor to President Arroyo by the time she is supposed to step down on June 30 is “almost inconceivable,” he said.

“We are looking at two to three days for the release of the national data … but as far as the proclamation of president and vice president (is concerned), you have to wait for Congress,” Jimenez told a forum by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

Under the Constitution, the Senate and the House of Representatives must convene not later than 30 days after the elections to officially count votes for the president and vice president and proclaim the winners.

Voters also will be electing senators, congressmen, provincial, city and municipal officials on May 10. These votes will also be counted using the automated system.

Random manual audit

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said yesterday the random manual audit of ballots should be done after the proclamation of candidates so as not to delay the election process.

“It should be after. If you do it before proclamation, then objections, challenges can be raised. If it happens, the process and proclamation of candidates will be delayed. It might defeat the purpose of full automation. That’s the concern of the Comelec,” Sarmiento told reporters.

Sarmiento said they are set to promulgate their resolution soon after reducing the report of the technical working group.

Electoral reform groups have asked the Comelec to conduct a wider manual audit of ballots before the proclamation of election winners because a limited one would cast doubt on the results of the automated polls.

Poll watchdog groups have been pushing for the random manual audit before the proclamation, saying doing it after the proclamation would render it useless.

Comelec critics claimed that in the event that there is a discrepancy between the results of the automated and manual count, the rest of the ballot boxes should be opened and be counted manually so winners can be proclaimed.

Sarmiento said that they have already decided to increase the number of precincts to be subjected to random manual audit.

“Now we have increased the audit to five, so it’s a higher number and make the precincts to be audited more representative,” Sarmiento said.

The random manual audit will be conducted by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) not belonging to the selected precinct.

The Poll Automation Law stipulates the conduct of manual audit in a single precinct per legislative district, randomly selected by the Comelec.

A ballot box from the selected precinct will be audited to check if the ballots in it had been counted properly by the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine.

JDV3 seeks parallel manual count

Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) senatorial candidate Joey de Venecia III sought yesterday a parallel manual count in the May 10 elections to protect the people’s right to choose their leader.

De Venecia said the parallel manual count will guarantee the credibility of the results of the May 10 elections.

“The Commission on Elections is well advised to heed the snowballing call for the conduct of a manual count of the votes to be cast in the May 10 elections side-by-side with the automated tally of the ballots of 50 million registered voters,” De Venecia said.

However, De Venecia said the 30 percent contingency manual ballots of the Comelec are not enough.

De Venecia said the Comelec must print enough manual ballots for the entire number of voters to cover the looming probability of widespread failure of the PCOS machines and automated count ballots as foreshadowed by last weekend’s overseas automated voting in Hong Kong.

He said it was not enough that Comelec has claimed to have set aside enough manual tally ballots to cover 30 percent of the entire electorate in case of a failure in the automated voting system, since it has no way to determine where and when the PCOS machines would bog down on election day.

“About five thousand voting machines are kept in reserve. How do we know that these five thousand are kept in a safe place? More importantly, how does the Comelec hope to distribute these to the areas where they are needed on election day?” De Venecia said.

Comelec may review gun ban

The Comelec may revisit its policies on the total gun ban, following the recent attacks against judges, an official said yesterday.

According to Commissioner Sarmiento, the recent atrocities against judges and the appeal of the Supreme Court (SC) to exempt them from the gun ban might warrant a review of Comelec Resolution 8742 implementing a total gun ban.

“The Comelec will revisit the rules with these judges facing threats to their life, especially during this election period.  They are the ones who will try electoral protests,” he added.

SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez has reiterated a request for the 2,000 judges nationwide to be exempted from the gun ban.

Under the resolution, only the members of the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Armed Forces of the Philippines and other law enforcement agencies are allowed to carry firearms provided that they are on duty and in uniform.

Other individuals can apply for security escorts with the Comelec if they feel there is a threat to their safety.

The Comelec is also now seriously considering holding early voting in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) despite the absence of an enabling law on this.

Sarmiento said the agency would hold next week a hearing on a pending petition to hold advance voting in ARMM. Political parties have been invited to the hearing.

He said aside from ARMM, other “traditionally hot spot areas” like Abra, Nueva Ecija and Masbate might be subjected to early voting if such is approved.

“We’ll do our best if it will help the election to make it credible, especially in these problematic areas,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Comelec has shelved the signing of a contract to supply some 228,000 padlocks to be used to secure ballot boxes.

Commissioner Armando Velasco said the suspension was made to review the petition of bidder Atlanta Industries Corp. which questioned the notice of award given to Neutron Construction and Marketing Corp. – AP, Helen Flores, Jose Rodel Clapano, Sheila Crisostomo

Proper indelible ink to be used in polls – Comelec

Proper indelible ink to be used in polls – Comelec
By Mayen Jaymalin
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday assured the people that an effective indelible ink would be available in the May 2010 elections despite the planned re-bidding and delay in purchase.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the Comelec still has sufficient time to re-bid the supply contract and ensure the quality of the indelible ink.

“Don’t worry about it. (We will make sure) that even if the dye may be removed by a strong enough solvent, the discoloration of the skin cannot be removed,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez said the Comelec could easily handle bidding process for the purchase of indelible ink.

“Madaling procurement lang naman ito. Matagal na namin itong ginagawa. (It would be easy to procure because we have been doing this for sometime). We don’t expect any issue here (that will cause delays),” he said.

Rebidding set this week

He said the Comelec has tentatively set the re-bidding for the indelible ink this week.

Jimenez said a new bidding for the ink could be in the offing after Texas Resources Corp.’s product failed in the first test after the firm won the bidding.

The poll official stressed that a second bidding would be fair for all stakeholders since Texas Corp. had already failed.

The indelible ink plays a crucial role in determining whether an individual had already voted or not.

He said the Comelec is now 90 percent complete with the preparation and fully ready for the conduct of the elections.

“Considering that all major components in the conduct of the elections are already in place, I would say the Commission is now 90 percent ready for the elections,” Jimenez disclosed.

Jimenez said the commission has already delivered 800 ballot boxes to different strategic hubs and deliveries for other units will start this week.

“We started with the far flung areas and deliveries in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other areas I believe will start next week,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez added that other election paraphernalia are already being packed and readied for delivery with about 6,000 ballot boxes still at Customs.

He said 35 million ballots have been printed and printing of the more than 50 million ballots necessary for the election is expected to be complete by April 25.

Jimenez said training of operators for the counting and canvassing system is also almost complete.

“Teachers have all been trained while the board of election inspectors are just waiting to be deployed. In fact, some of them have already been deployed and doing the testing and sealing of computer machines,” Jimenez pointed out.

About 40 percent of the polling precincts have already undergone testing and sealing procedures.

PNP prepares commanders

PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa has directed all police regional, provincial and station commanders to ensure that the May 10 elections will be peaceful and orderly.

Verzosa, who went around different regional and provincial police offices nationwide, reminded the 130,000 policemen nationwide to remain non-partisan and follow the law.

PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said the PNP has already laid down preparations for the first ever automated elections.

“All systems go. All security preparations are in place and are being implemented nationwide,” Espina said.

Espina said the PNP continues to strictly implement the gun ban imposed by the Comelec from Jan. 10 to June 9 in connection with the national and local elections.

As of April 11, the National Election Monitoring Action Center (NEMAC) reported that 1,903 violators of the gun ban were arrested that included 1,706 civilians and 217 government employees. Police seized 1,612 firearms.

Checkpoints, gun ban boost drive vs crimes

Verzosa said the establishment of checkpoints and gun ban appeared to have also boosted the police campaign against street crimes.

He said there was a relatively peaceful situation in areas where the PNP set up checkpoints as part of the gun ban imposed by Comelec in preparation for national and local elections on May 10.

“We can see also that there’s relative peaceful environment in different areas where we have set up checkpoints, there was also slight decrease in incidents of crime,” said Verzosa.

The PNP announced that it has tightened security in the country and had placed police units in Western Mindanao (Region 9); Northern Mindanao (Region 10), Southern Mindanao (Region 11), Central Mindanao (Region 12), CARAGA (Region 13) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on full alert status.

Espina said Regions 1 to 8 or the Ilocos Region (Region 1), Cagayan Valley (Region 2), Central Luzon (Region 3), Southern Tagalog (Region 4), Bicol Region (Region 5), Western Visayas (Region 6), Central Visayas (Region 7), Eastern Visayas (Region 8) and the National Capital Region on heightened alert status. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe

'Poll automation a black hole'

‘Poll automation a black hole’
By Rainier Allan Ronda
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential candidate Nick Perlas expressed serious concern over the seeming “last minute” changes being done by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on paraphernalia for next month’s polls, saying the automated system is proving to be the “black hole” of the elections.

Perlas told The STAR editors and reporters during a roundtable discussion yesterday that the Comelec slip-ups tended to show that “we are moving towards a failure of elections.”

Perlas stressed that the changes being made by the Comelec were not assuring the electorate of clean and orderly polls.

The Comelec, for its part, said yesterday that preparations for the automated polls are on track.

“We are on track. There may be some delays but I am very confident that everything will be in place in time for the election,” Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said yesterday.

Perlas said that he and his followers were already considering a failure of elections scenario.

“The system is so complex, apparently, there are many mistakes made already,” Perlas said.

“There are so many changes. The things coming out in the papers, it doesn’t give you the kind of confidence that automated elections will give us clean and honest elections,” Perlas noted.

“There are obviously loopholes. I’m not sure if they will be ready for the elections,” Perlas said.

He said they were already discussing possible actions to take if there will be failure of elections, and as election day draws nearer he will be more actively discussing possible actions with his supporters.

“Such a scenario could lead us to be plunged into chaos that is potentially violent,” Perlas said.

He said that while his team was now focused on his campaign, they were scheduling nationwide consultations to discuss a failure of elections scenario.

“Shortly before the elections, we’ll also start to hold nationwide consultations on how they want us to respond in case there will be failure of elections,” Perlas said.

36 million ballots printed – Comelec

Melo said some 36 million ballots have already been printed and they are confident that all 50.7 million ballots will be printed by April 25 so that the Comelec could start delivering them to the hub and sub-hub warehouses across the country.

The government-run National Printing Office is able to print some 900,000 ballots every day since the fifth printer began running last April 5.

“The ballots will be kept there but four to five days before election day, they should have already been delivered to the (city and municipal) Treasurer’s Office,” he said.

Melo also maintained the agency is expecting lesser poll-related violence this year, especially since the Comelec had imposed a total gun ban. “Compared to the previous election, the incidence of violence is lesser. I hope this will be the situation until the election.”

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento noted the training of some 300,000 teachers serving as Board of Election Inspectors had been completed while the training for the Board of Canvassers (BOC) and the voter’s education is still ongoing.

BOC is composed of an election officer who acts as chair, city or municipal treasurer and district school supervisor.

Records showed that of the 77,000 ballot boxes ordered by the Comelec from Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. (TIM), 33,432 units are already in the country. Another 12,000 ballot boxes are expected to arrive on April 12.

All of the 82,200 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines have already been delivered by the joint venture and 43,247 of them have already been configured as of April 1.

Everyday, some 2,000 PCOS machines are being configured at the Smartmatic-TIM warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna.

So far, 51,799 and 6,548 PCOS technicians and supervisors, respectively, have already been trained.

Asked about the pronouncements of various electoral reform groups that the Comelec is ill-prepared for the election, Melo had reiterated that it’s about time for the country to automate its polls.

“Let us put our shoulders behind this. The Comelec is doing its best,” Melo added.

PPCRV seeks review contract for indelible ink

Meanwhile, a Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) member sought yesterday a review of the Comelec contract for the indelible ink that will be used by voters on election day.

In an interview, PPCRV member Arwin Serrano said that Comelec’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) had started the bidding process for the contract amounting to some P77 million.

“There were two bidders. One was disqualified while the other, which is ‘Texas’, passed (the eligibility and financial screenings). Last March 16 or 17, BAC had tested the indelible ink of ‘Texas’ but it failed,” he noted.

Serrano claimed that he was eventually informed that BAC had given “Texas” another chance to increase the silver nitrate content of its product so a “re-testing” was conducted.

“I was told that during the second test, the indelible ink passed. But for me, there should be no second chance. If you fail once, that’s it. We should be strict on this because this ink is very important for our election,” he added.

Serrano maintained that BAC should have instead conducted a re-bidding of the contract.

Asked about this, Comelec Commissioner Sarmiento admitted that it was the full commission who gave the “marching order” to the BAC to re-test after Texas had adjusted its indelible ink.

Sarmiento could not immediately ascertain at what level the bidding is now but he advised Serrano to formalize his proposal so that the Comelec could address it properly.

Indelible ink is applied usually on the index fingers of voters after casting their votes to prevent them from voting again.

OTC files motion for reconsideration with Comelec

Meanwhile, OTC Paper Supply yesterday asked the Comelec to reconsider its decision to cancel the company’s contract to supply some P700-million worth of ballot secrecy folders.

In a motion for reconsideration filed with the Comelec, OTC Paper Supply proprietor Willy Young said that Comelec Resolution 8814 must be reviewed since “it effectively terminated an existing contract of the Commission without the observance of the process, both procedural and substantive, required by law.”

Young noted that a “valid contract exists” between the OTC and the Comelec for the supply of 1.8 million secrecy folders.

The motion showed that OTC received the notice of award from the Comelec last March 16 and it submitted a performance bond to the poll body nine days later.

Under Section 37 of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act, OTC has 10 days from receipt of notice within which to formally enter into contract with the Comelec.

“And if no action on the contract is taken by the head of the commission within the aforesaid period, the contract shall be deemed approved,” he added.

Young said that “none of the grounds for termination of a procurement contract enumerated in the law… are present in the instant case.”

“Neither is there a ground to terminate the subject contract for convenience. No condition exists that makes the project implementation economically, financially or technically impractical and/or unnecessary such as fortuitous events or change in the law and national government policies,” he added.

Last April 5, the Comelec issued Resolution 8814 scrapping the contract after finding out that the price of the OTC folder was exorbitant at P380 per piece.

The Comelec just decided to let voters use ordinary folders.

Comelec-Law Department director Ferdinand Rafanan said that he was instructed by Melo “to leave no stone unturned” in investigating the irregular contract.

Rafanan said BAC chair Maria Lea Alarkon, vice chairman Allen Francis Abaya and members Maria Norina Tangaro-Casingal, Martin Niedo and Antonio Santella would still be held liable even if they reportedly were planning to resign. With Sheila Crisostomo

Comelec: Fake gun ban exemptions being sold

Comelec: Fake gun ban exemptions being sold
By Reynaldo Santos Jr.

MANILA, Philippines–The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said it discovered that fake certificates of exemption from the gun ban are being sold by unscrupulous individuals.

A gun ban is in effect during the entire election period, from January 10 to June 9. Unlike in past elections, the poll body is not granting exemptions to carry firearms this year.

Commissioner Lucenito Tagle told reporters that the Comelec received reports claiming that some people had been found carrying fake forms that allow the possession of firearms. These forms, he said, are being sold for P5,000 each.

Tagle said out of the 1,360 individuals arrested for illegally carrying firearms, 5 or 6 of were found to be carrying fake gun ban exemption certificates.

Under Comelec Resolution 8714, only those from law enforcing agencies like the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are allowed to carry firearms during the election period.

The format of the fake certificates found were said to be copied from those used in the previous elections. The poll body used to award certificates of exemption to interested individuals only during previous elections.

This year, however, the Comelec is implementing a total gun ban nationwide. “Now, it’s very clear that only law enforcement agencies are allowed to carry firearms,” Tagle said.

The commissioner added that the poll body didn’t allow even judges, mediamen, and government officials to be issued gun ban exemptions. “We don’t grant exemptions individually,” he said.

But aside from arresting those who will be caught with the fake certificates, Tagle is more interested in tracing the roots of this illegal act. “Gusto namin malaman yung brains, kung sino nagbebenta nyan,” he said.

Tagle said that the PNP and AFP are conducting surveillance to investigate the source of the fake gun ban exemption forms.

Those who will be arrested will face criminal offense for the falsification of document, and election offense for violating the poll body’s resolution. They will be facing imprisonment of 1 to 6 years, and might be barred from voting.

Meanwhile, Tagle said that the PNP had arrested 40 armed group members from various parts of the country. The poll body, however, will not yet put their provinces under Comelec control, as they still are waiting for the assessment report of AFP and PNP. (Newsbreak)

Election gun ban violators reach more than 1,000

Election gun ban violators reach more than 1,000

Election gun ban violators have reached more than a thousand, more than two months after the nationwide prohibition was put in place, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.

“We have substantial accomplishments… I think we have 1,351 persons arrested including some of us PNP personnel as well,” PNP-Deputy Director General Edgardo Acuna, PNP’s chief directorial staff, said during a consultative conference with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday.

Last month, violators of the gun ban reached 820.

Earlier, the Comelec issued Resolution 1814 which bans candidates and private individuals from carrying firearms and hiring bodyguards during the election period which will run from January 10 to June 9, 2010.

The ban was enforced to prevent and minimize violence during the election season, which in the Philippines has been characterized by violence.

“I think the total gun ban is a facility for enhancing the sense of security among the public,” said Acuna.

Exempted from the ban are members of the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and other law enforcement agencies who are on duty.

But the Comelec allows individuals with security threats to have escorts during the election period upon application and assessment.

The escorts can come from the PNP, AFP, or the National Bureau of Investigation.

However, the poll body said that a security detail who is not wearing the authorized uniform but still opts to bear, carry, or transport firearms or other deadly weapons will be considered unauthorized to carry such weapons and will be arrested.

“For now, all the law enforcement agencies have submitted to Comelec the accredited sets of uniforms, these will be recognized by our checkpoints,” said Acuna.

Violation of the gun ban is an election offense, which entails a punishment of six months to one year imprisonment. -RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV