UniversityBantay Boto 2015 launched, multi-sectoral forum held to address 2016 elections
Bantay Boto 2015 launched, multi-sectoral forum held to address 2016 elections

Bantay Boto 2015, an initiative organized to clamor for a more transparent and honest elections, was launched last November 13 at the 5th Floor Multipurpose Hall, Henry Sy Sr. Building.

The project was conceptualized by Ley La Salle and the DLSU Political Science Society, in partnership with Boto Lasalyano, Sulong Pilipino (BLSP) and Democracy Watch Philippines.

Keynote speakers for the event included Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Andres Bautista, Prof. Dindo Manhit, Atty. Karen Jimeno, and AC Wilson. Each keynote speaker discussed different aspects of the 2016 National and Local Elections (NLE).

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Call for honest elections

Chairman of Senate Committee on Electoral Forum Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III; Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista; Prof. Dindo Manhit from the Political Science Department and Democracy Watch Philippines; Atty. Karen Jimeno from Smartmatic, the electronic voting company providing the Precinct Count Optical Scanners (PCOS) machines; and Miss AC Wilson, member of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) Formation Team. Each keynote speaker discussed the different aspects of the 2016 National and Local Elections (NLE), but are all geared towards the same thing: a more transparent and honest elections.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reform and People’s Participation Sen. Pimentel stressed that the upcoming NLE must be taken seriously because everyone’s future is at stake for the next six years if the voters decide to go for the wrong candidate. “Steer from the kababawan (i.e. the campaign jingles and dances) of the elections to the issues and [the candidates’] plans,” he emphasized.

Regarding the shift from manual to automated elections, according to the senator, the target now for cheating the elections are the voters themselves. “During the manual elections, there was someone who counted the votes, so they are the ones to be bribed. But now, there’s no one to bribe anymore because the votes are counted by the machines. So [the candidates] resort to vote-buying,” he explained.

Bautista, chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), began by informing the participants of the objectives of the Comelec for 2016, that the Comelec is aiming for a credible election and continuing to explore different avenues to enhance people’s voting experience. Among the efforts of the Comelec that Bautista enumerated were the registration and election activities being held in shopping malls nationwide, the role of social media, and holding different debates among the NLE candidates.

Meanwhile, the Political Science Department and Democracy Watch Philippines’ Manhit mentioned that electoral corruption is the mother of all corruption, emphasizing that a very crucial aspect of the NLE is to make sure that the elections would be honest and fair, and free from electoral corruption such as vote-buying. According to Manhit, systemic corruption in the Philippines is a consequence of bad politics, which is why he and Democracy Watch push for a political and electoral reform. He also encouraged people to listen and let themselves be educated regarding voting because it would be harder for politicians to manipulate the voters’ decision if the people are more active and concerned about the upcoming elections.

On the other hand, Atty. Karen Jimeno veered everyone’s attention away from the expectations on the elections in 2016 and focused on the automated machines created by Smartmatic, the electronic voting company providing the Precinct Count Optical Scanners (PCOS) machines for the NLE. She explained that he rationale behind the implementation of using automated machines for the elections was the long process of counting the ballots in the elections before 2010. She pointed out that the long wait that people endured for the results of the election increased their level of uncertainty towards the legitimacy of the results. Atty. Jimeno soon disclosed that in the upcoming elections, new machines will be used, and that such machines received an upgrade to ensure a fast, accurate, and transparent elections.

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Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) Formation Team’s Wilson spoke about the youth participation in one good vote. She pointed out that a neglected election is the root of graft and corruption. She mentioned that there is a need to use “KKK” as a guiding to tool to help in getting to know who will get elected. KKK stands for karakter (character), kakayahan (capacity), and katapatan (sincerity). Upon closing her speech, Wilson encouraged students in choosing to be brave and participating in nation-building to attain a corruption free governance in the society.

Despite taking on different sides and perspectives on the upcoming elections, all speakers concluded their speeches similarly, in that they looked forward to an honest, reliable, and corruption-free 2016 NLE.