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COMELEC: Successful elections this year

From March 18-20, Lasallians took to their college’s precincts to cast their votes for this year’s General Elections. From Manila to Biñan, DLSU’s Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and STC’s Election Commission (ELECOM) facilitated the conduct of elections, setting up the precincts for voters while also providing a steady supply of ballots and ensuring the security of ballot boxes, while taking charge of the counting and
re-counting of ballots.

From March 18-20, Lasallians took to their college’s precincts to cast their votes for this year’s General Elections. From Manila to Biñan, DLSU’s Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and STC’s Election Commission (ELECOM) facilitated the conduct of elections, setting up the precincts for voters while also providing a steady supply of ballots and ensuring the security of ballot boxes, while taking charge of the counting and re-counting of ballots. The voting period for the Taft campus ended on the 20th of March, while STC’s automated elections were extended by a day due to technical malfunctions on the first voting day of March 17. The STC elections were extended by the ELECOM until Friday, a non-class day, due to the delays. COMELEC Chairperson Kevin Caballas shares, “Although they did have problems with the elections over at STC, I do commend our counterparts for being so decisive and collected when it happened. They took control of the situation with some consultation from us as well and they were able to get the elections back up and running again way earlier than I expected.” Generally, Caballas thinks that the COMELEC met its objectives as an election organizer, although he admits some areas that COMELEC can work on. “There should be more activities that will engage students in the spirit of the elections. Also, maybe COMELEC can tap other student units to educate and reach out to the community more. But other than that, I believe that COMELEC’s vision of a successful election this year has been met.” Successful election? Despite COMELEC’s self-assessment of a successful election, some of the political parties feel that this election had its share of inconsistent flaws. Jerick Maala, President of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista, shares, “In general, lower turnout yung elections compared to last year, it was not well publicized. We need more manpower in the COMELEC, as the GE was not well publicized.” Voter turnout in all colleges exceeded 60 percent of their total populations. Maala adds that there might have been lapses in terms of the Commissioners’ training in the interpretation of the law, given his claim that there were inconsistencies in COMELEC’s implementation of the Election Code, especially in terms of its logic and decision-making. “[The inconsistencies include] the approval of campaign materials, and the inability to follow the verbal agreements [between all parties] during the second term.” Maala also alleges that COMELEC was unable to prevent cases of voter harassment and electioneering, although said concerns were raised to the commission. Rachel Lucero, President of Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon, also shares that this year’s elections had its positive areas, and areas for improvement. She says that the non-singsong RTR format followed by candidates and parties worked for students. “Mas effective to have the conversational type, mas madaling ipaintindi sa estudyante yung platforms [The conversational type of RTR campaign was better for candidates to communicate platforms to students]. Because of this, students were more encouraged to ask questions and to be more involved during campaign.” She adds, though, that everybody involved in the elections should have been more vigilant with the implementation of the Election Code. “All parties involved should begin looking at the Code, and know how to properly conduct the elections. We need consistency in order to uphold the sanctity, integrity and legitimacy of the elections.” Election cases: The decision-making process Asked about his sentiments regarding political parties, Caballas states that nothing much is new, as COMELEC usually receives complaints from both parties. When it comes to the cases in question, he affirms that decisions for cases are reached from a formal quorum in COMELEC. “Even though I am the COMELEC Chairperson, it’s not really entirely up to me to decide on what to do with cases, or rather, any COMELEC or election-related decision. We convene and decide through a quorum (at least two-thirds of the total number of commissioners should be present). I only serve as a tie breaker if necessary. Before deciding, we commissioners first study the case at hand and discuss points that each commissioner may have.” About the Election Code, Caballas attests that there is no uniform way of resolving election-related disputes. “It’s a bit harder than cases covered in the election code, though we also take a similar approach. We commissioners convene and study the case’s validity. For example, with the case of a certain candidate, we also had to look at other documents like the USG Code of Conduct alongside the provisions in the Election Code. The commissioners then present points proving their stand. We also consult the Judiciary Branch since like I mentioned earlier, they are the highest interpreters of the law, and sometimes, COMELEC alumni who have tackled similar cases. In the end, it all comes down to what decision got the majority [in COMELEC] of the votes.” But even if the first counting period has finished, the COMELEC is still busy at work with requests for recounting and the resolution of cases. “I can’t say it’s over since we still have [this] week for recount requests and cases if any.” “From where I’m standing, students are becoming a lot more critical about how they’ll be represented among the different sectors of the University, and that is really one of my goals when I took on my role as COMELEC Chair: to encourage and challenge students to be involved in the development of our community by practicing their right to vote,” ends Caballas.

By Juan Batalla

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