Members of the Lasallian community interested to sign up as volunteers for the upcoming national and local elections were invited to attend a volunteer orientation on April 8 at the 4th Multipurpose Room, Henry Sy Sr. Hall. The event was organized by Boto Lasalyano, Sulong Pilipino (BLSP) together with the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and De La Salle Philippines (DLSP).
Challenges to the elections
Gladstone Cuarteros, national coordinator for the Lasallian Justice and Peace Commission of the DLSP, delivered a talk on the 2016 elections. According to his presentation, the election of new officers into the government is especially significant this year in the context of several problems plaguing the Philippine society, such as economic growth without inclusivity, pervasive poverty and elite wealth concentration, elite democracy and marginalized poor, and internal and global conflicts, among others.
According to Cuarteros, several challenges to the elections face not only the Commission on Elections (Comelec) but the Filipinos in general. Some of these challenges include resolving the automated elections systems in terms of transparency, security, and efficiency; regulating campaign expenditures; addressing electoral violence; preventing election fraud; and empowering voters and election monitors.
From a volunteer’s perspective
In light of these challenges, members of the community are called to become volunteers for NAMFREL for the upcoming polls. Mark Lester Toribio, chairperson for NAMFREL’s Manila chapter, relayed some of his experiences working as a volunteer for NAMFREL. He recounted his experiences dealing with detainee voters, vote buying, and flying voters.
Toribio recalled volunteering for the voting procedure for detainees. Unlike the usual voting process, detainee voters do not use automated machines when voting but instead still make use of shading ballots. Toribio estimated around 1,000 registered detainee voters in Metro Manila; however, he said that 35 percent of this number failed to vote in the previous elections due to several problems faced in addition to the voting process. Among these problems include the lack of secrecy, stemming from overcrowding in small spaces in precincts where the detainees are housed.
On the issue of vote buying, Toribio discussed several means through which votes are “bought.” Some of these means include telling people not to vote in exchange for a price, benefits and allowances handed to volunteers and poll watchers, ambulances and rescue vans awarded to barangays, sidecars and food stalls given, and casual employment and scholarships granted.
Flying voters include voters who appear on the voter’s list more than once. These are suspicious entries in the voter’s list that may have variant names (similar names with the first one having a suffix, or different names with same birthdays and addresses) and/or incomplete or suspicious addresses.
What a volunteer can do
“[We] love democracy and freedom but after the festivities, [we] forget to do the hard job,” lamented NAMFREL Secretary General Eric Alvia. According to him, the election season in the country has turned into “a holiday, a fiesta.”
Alvia relayed the six main thrusts of NAMFREL for the upcoming national and local elections, in line with the body’s slogan, “Walang saysay ang one good vote kung walang one true count.” These projects are Voter’s Information and Citizenship Education, Computerized Voter’s List, Campaign Finance, Automated Elections System, Mobile Pollwatching, and Random Manual Audit.
Members of the community wishing to participate in volunteering efforts by NAMFREL are encouraged to get in touch with NAMFREL through the University’s Center for Social Concern and Action or BLSP.