Election period has always been a time that makes everyone equal. No matter the disposition or socio-economic status of a person, every citizen upholds his or her exclusive right to vote. This year is no exception, and before voting starts tomorrow, it helps to take note of a few things before you have your vote scanned by the PCOS machines.
New voting process
This year will be the second round of automated elections. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is expecting that it will be more efficient and organized for every Filipino in the country. In order to do so, COMELEC has presented a new voting process to prevent a disorderly election period.
The new process will be on a “first come, first serve” basis in which people will be assembled in a room full of chairs with numbers. Before a person is considered eligible to cast a vote, the person should be registered and free of indelible ink. After the voter gets checked, they will be handed their ballots. Consequently, the voter will then be allowed to cast his or her votes.
In casting the vote, the voter should shade the circle corresponding to the candidate’s name in the ballot. Each voter is entitled to protect his or her votes and let nobody see them. Taking pictures of the filled ballots will not be tolerated in the voting room.
As the voter finishes, he or she will feed the ballot to the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine. In case the PCOS rejects the ballot, a representative from the support staff is eligible to check what error from the ballot has been made. The ballot will only be fed to the PCOS machine four times more from the first try. If the same error still happens for the fifth time, the ballot will be considered null and void.
For illiterate and disabled people, relatives and support staff are allowed to assist in voting.
Voting will start at 7:00 am until 7:00 pm but will be extended until 12 midnight as instructed by the COMELEC. As the voting day ends, the PCOS machine generates results, and eight copies will be printed for national results as well as local.
What to expect
International observers will be designated to six different areas in the country to monitor the elections. They aim to craft a collective monitoring and evaluative report to be eventually known by the public and other concerned agencies.
According to ABS-CBNnews.com, at least 30 people will be engaged in the 2013 International Observers Mission, with the observers called “International Team Bantay.”
The Compact for Peaceful Democratic Elections (COMPACT) explains that the areas to be monitored are chosen not only because of potential electoral clashes, but also because of variables such as a history of election-related violence, fraud and existent political clans, the presence of capable local civil society organizations, and the security of the international observers.
The foreign observers come from 16 different countries, namely Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Australia, Spain, Germany, USA, Burma, Thailand, Afghanistan, Netherlands, Indonesia, Pakistan, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Another important aspect to consider is tomorrow’s weather. According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the weather is predicted to be cloudy with isolated rains and thunderstorms especially during the afternoon or evening, which may affect voter participation.
PAGASA recommends Filipino voters to bring umbrellas for protection against the sun and rain.
Issues with preparation
As the election date drew near, formerly unforeseen issues have risen to cause doubt, anxiety and protest from various sectors.
Power failure in some regions, specifically in Mindanao, is expected to take place for the duration of the elections and processing of votes. Power outages were also experienced in most parts of Luzon a week before the elections, eliciting predictions of similar conditions on election day. People are suspicious about whether this failure is a “practice” for electoral fraud on the election day itself.
Gun bans have been implemented primarily to prevent election-related violence. However, there is still an increasing number of election-related violence cases across the country especially in the provinces.
The COMELEC has also implemented the first-ever money ban, which has been attacked by many agencies including the leading concerned Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
“This is a formal resolution of the COMELEC deputizing the BSP to prohibit withdrawals of more than P100, 000.00 per day,” Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. claimed in a report from Inquirer. This resolution is aimed at preventing any form of vote buying. However, no sanction has been pointed out in such resolution.
Amidst all these, the BSP is reluctant to follow such resolution by COMELEC, which is also supported by the President. They expressed that the resolution is “toothless” with no mention of a penalty. At the same time, the President has criticized the resolution, calling it a “shotgun approach” that kills good business, according to report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Although Brillantes is confident that the money ban will minimize vote buying, the question of whether or not it truly will be effective as a lacking resolution still remains.
In the end, it is in one’s discretion who to vote for, whether or not money is involved. The most important thing is to know that everyone maintains their right to vote and should learn to exercise the opportunity not only for one’s personal interest but also for the nation.