Leonardo Espina

20,800 soldiers, cops vote manually today

20,800 soldiers, cops vote manually today
By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – More than 19,000 soldiers and 1,800 policemen are expected to vote ahead of the May 10 elections in major military camps and police stations nationwide, starting today until Friday, as part of the government’s absentee voting program.

Today, Navy personnel in the Western Mindanao Command and the Southern Luzon Command will cast their ballots.

Tomorrow, officers and airmen in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City will go through the electoral exercise.

Absentee voting for soldiers in Metro Manila will be held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Friday.

Other military units have yet to announce their schedule of voting as of last night.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the selected polling centers nationwide are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on those three days.

These will be located in police stations, military camps, and government offices, he added.

Absentee voters will cast their ballots manually because it would be costly to automate for a small number of voters, Sarmiento said.

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, AFP Task Force HOPE (Honest Orderly and Peaceful Elections) spokesman, said the Comelec has approved the request of 19,722 absentee voters in the Armed Forces.

“We would like to announce that the local absentee voting for AFP personnel would be anytime between April 28 to 30,” he said.

Nepomuceno said 1,420 soldiers assigned in Metro Manila are expected to cast their ballots in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

“Other than here (Camp Aguinaldo), we have the major camps, the Air Force and Navy, they have also their voting places,” he said.

“We will allow all of them to vote. I think we are encouraging all service commanders to ensure that all those who applied for absentee voting would be able to cast their votes.”

Absentee voting will not apply to soldiers assigned in places where they are registered voters, Nepomuceno said.

Data from the military showed 958 absentee voters in the Cordillera Administrative Region, 100 in Ilocos Region, 486 in Cagayan Valley, 1,451 in Central Luzon, 2,128 in Bicol, 5,100 in Southern Tagalog and the entire Visayas, 1,106 in Zamboanga Peninsula, 1,475 in Northern Mindanao, 1,041 in the Davao Region, and 4,457 in SOCCSKSARGEN, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and CARAGA Region.

Only 1,800 policemen in absentee voting

However, only 1,800 of the 130,000 policemen nationwide were allowed to take part in absentee voting today and until Friday.

Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina, Philippine National Police spokesman, said the Comelec denied the request of the 128,200 policemen because they had failed to vote in the past two elections.

“A total of 1,800 police personnel will participate in absentee voting in different regions,” he said.

Espina said absentee voting for policemen will not take place in Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Cordillera Administrative Region, and the ARMM.

The policemen will vote manually, not shade oblongs beside the names of candidates, he added.

PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa will not avail of absentee voting because he will attend a meeting of the Bishop-Ulama Conference, Espina said.

Military vehicles banned from transporting ballots

The Comelec has banned police and military vehicles from transporting ballots and other election material to be used in the May10 elections.

In Resolution 8823, the poll body said election paraphernalia, including the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, ballot boxes and official ballots can no longer be transported in police and military vehicles.

However, the Comelec said exemptions can be made in extreme cases on condition that an official request letter would be sent to the elections official assigned in the area where the emergency occurred.

Transport of ballots and the counting machines is the responsibility of Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp., according to the poll body.

The Comelec said the police and military shall not participate in the physical handling of any election paraphernalia and equipment to avoid suspicion of involvement in rigging of election results.

However, policemen and soldiers will remain in charge of providing security to the PCOS machines, accessories, and official ballots and other election paraphernalia while in transit, the poll body added.

The Comelec said the police and military shall also be responsible for perimeter security in all hubs and sub hubs in coordination with the regional/provincial/city Joint Security Control Centers and the election officer concerned.

Police and the military will also provide security to polling centers, members of the Board of Election Inspectors, and accredited citizens’ arm volunteers before the arrival of the PCOS machines and accessories at the polling precincts, the poll body added.

AFP to set up operations hub

Meanwhile, AFP Task Force HOPE will set up an operation hub in Camp Aguinaldo to monitor poll-related violent incidents.

Nepomuceno said the operation center would allow them to oversee the security situation nationwide and to coordinate with regional joint security coordinating centers.

“We are preparing the operations center of Task Force HOPE,” he said.

“It would facilitate the exchange of information on, before, and after the election. It would be more efficient if we open our contact numbers here.”

The operation center is scheduled to be launched on April 30.

It will feature facilities like computers that media practitioners can use to file their stories, television monitors, and telephone units. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Mayen Jaymalin, Maria Ana Saet, Carra Callen Tamayo

PNP to remain apolitical

PNP to remain apolitical
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) said yesterday it would remain apolitical despite reports that some members of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ‘77 met with Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Aquino III.

“We are preparing and working to ensure honest, orderly and peaceful elections as ordered by PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa,” said PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina.

Aquino confirmed that he had met with members of PMA Class ‘77 that adopted Aquino’s closest rival Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar Jr.

But Espina said he and Verzosa are not aware of the reported meeting between Aquino and members of PMA Class ‘77.

A source, however, said not all members of the class, particularly those in the PNP, joined the meeting as there are only seven members of PMA Class ‘77 who are regional directors and directorate for integrated police operations.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) denied allegations that Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales had ordered troops to prepare for a military takeover in the event of failure of elections.

AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said they have not received such order since they never thought of such scenario.

The PMA Class ’77 also denied allegations that its members secretly met with Aquino.

Class ’77 president Navy Rear Admiral Danilo Cortez said such meeting was unlikely since they are non-partisan and are loyal to the military leadership.

But Aquino said he had met with members of the military concerned with possible failure of elections.

He said military officials assured him that they would not be part of any scheme to derail the upcoming elections.

Aquino disclosed in an ambush interview that those he met were from various PMA classes, both active and retired, and not particularly those disgruntled with the appointment of Bangit as AFP chief of staff.

“I take it in the context that they are part of the public that I serve. And they are more constrained in voicing their opinions. Therefore, I gave them an ear that was sympathetic to their concerns, to give them the idea their concerns are being addressed. Other than that, there was nothing more that we talked about,” Aquino said.

He explained that the military officials were only concerned with the failure of elections and the role they would play in case of failure of elections. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Alexis Romero, Aurea Calica

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

PNP sees violence rise as May polls near; figures say otherwise

PNP sees violence rise as May polls near; figures say otherwise
By Anthony Vargas
Dateline Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Security officials on Tuesday said they expect the number of election-related violent incidents (ERVI’s) to rise as the campaign period reaches the homestretch to the May 10 elections.

The ERVI projection echoed the earlier statements of Defense secretary and National Security adviser Norberto Gonzales.

Director General Jesus Versoza, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said, however, that the recorded number of poll-related incidents this year is comparatively low as compared to reported number of poll related incidents in the two previous elections.

As of Tuesday, the PNP already tallied a total of 37 validated ERVI’s resulting in 22 deaths and 16 injuries during the first 71 days of the campaign period for national elections, which started last January 10.

Majority of the identified casualties recorded from January 10 to April 6 were supporters of candidates, according to the PNP monitoring report.

The PNP recorded a total of 130 poll-related incidents during the same period for the 2007 elections and 122 incidents for the same period during the 2004 elections.

Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, PNP spokesman, attributed the low number of poll-related incidents recorded for this year’s election period to the intensified campaign against loose firearms and private armed groups.

“We intensified our campaign against loose firearms and private armed groups since last year and this somehow helped in lessening poll-related incidents,” Espina said in an interview.

The PNP spokesman said that to date, they have already accounted for about 64% of the estimated 1.1 million loose firearms scattered all over the country and have already neutralized over a dozed private armed groups.

Despite the relative success of the election gun ban campaign, the PNP raised its alert level status on the eve of the start of the campaign period for the local elections in a bid to prevent the outbreak of ERVIs.

“We are observing different areas and we expect that there could be an increase [in Ervi’s] towards May 10,” Versoza told reporters in a chance interview at Camp Crame.

The PNP chief said that political rivalries especially among supporters of candidates at the local level are expected to intensify in the run-up to the May 10 polls.

“We are requesting the supporters of different candidates to maintain calm and avoid any altercation with the other parties and to maintain their discipline to avoid more incidents in the elections,” Versoza said.

Campaign for local posts begins, Comelec bracing for more violence

Campaign for local posts begins, Comelec bracing for more violence
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is bracing for a rise in violence and poll infractions as the 45-day campaign period for local races begins Friday.

Poll officials said they expect election-related violence to increase, particularly with the country’s first fully computerized polls.

“There is that possibility so we have to be doubly vigilant,” said poll commissioner Rene Sarmiento, noting that local elections in the Philippines are often bitter and violent, with families often turning against each other.

“Politics is thicker than water in the elections,” the commissioner added.

Up for grabs in the May 10 elections are 222 seats in the House of Representatives; 80 each for governors and vice governors; 762 provincial board members; 120 each for city mayors and vice mayors; 1,514 each for municipal mayors and vice mayors; 1,346 for city councilors; and 12,116 for municipal councilors.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that the violence during elections have historically come from local contests.

“People are more hot-headed in local politics,” he said.

Jimenez noted that the automation process could increase election-related killings and harassment as politicians realize that they cannot subvert the system to manipulate the vote in their favor.

“There’s that remote and perverse possibility that automation might actually contribute to the slight increase in election violence. The tendency is to try to pre-empt the elections by just offing your opponent, killing your opponent or, at least, hurting them or whatever,” he said.

Private armies

Sarmiento also called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be serious in eliminating private armed groups.

Citing a police report to the poll body, Sarmiento said there are 43 verified partisan armed groups and 25 unconfirmed ones scattered throughout the country.

As of February, the PNP said 35 percent of the country’s 1,634 towns and cities have seen election-related violence.

The poll body has yet to put any town or province under Comelec control because of excessive violence.

The Comelec has not received any petition to place an area under its control, Sarmiento said, adding that concerned parties have to file a petition with the Comelec to start the process.

Sarmiento urged candidates to follow the election laws on campaign spending, advertising and other campaign activities. They should familiarize themselves with the rules on posters and streamers to avoid complaints, he said.

Jimenez noted that local candidates are the main offenders of the rules on the posting of streamers and posters.

Meanwhile, the PNP has gone on heightened alert and would remain in that status until June 9 to foil election-related violence and double its efforts against private armed groups, officials said.

To implement the gun ban imposed by the Comelec, more than 50,000 police officers have been deployed in 3,500 checkpoints across the country, said PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina.

Full alert

But the entire Mindanao, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), remain on full alert, he said.

The Zamboanga peninsula, Northern Mindanao, the Davao provinces, Socsargen and the National Capital Region have been on full alert since July “because of the series of bombings that happened there,” Espina said.

In a heightened alert status, the police would be on a round-the-clock lookout for private armed groups it earlier identified “so we can prevent their plans of conducting criminal activities against rival candidates,” Espina said.

The PNP has created special task groups to monitor 95 private armies reportedly operating in provinces identified as “election hot spots” in anticipation of a possible escalation of election-related violence when the local campaign season starts. With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy