Voting 21-0-0, the Legislative Assembly (LA), in its session earlier today, July 16, unanimously approved amendments to the Online Election Code (OEC) ahead of the General Elections to be held later this academic term.
During its previous session, the legislature scrutinized the DLSU Commission on Elections (Comelec) for alleged lapses in the rollout of voter login credentials for its online voting system and its voter awareness campaign.
Amendments on offenses, voting extension, DTS
The LA included new major offenses for political parties as part of the amendments to the OEC. These are any “student handbook offense related to the elections” and the utilization of any online classroom or learning platform like AnimoSpace for campaigning purposes without the explicit permission of the faculty-in-charge.
“Technical difficulties” were also included as an additional basis for extending the elections by at most three days. Previously, the code only allowed for an extension if the required voter turnout of at least 50 percent plus one was not reached.
BLAZE2021 LA Representative Sophia Beltrano, a co-author of the measure, said that such changes were based on the recommendations raised by the LA in its previous session and on the post-election survey they disseminated. “The [Comelec] inquiry and the survey really helped us improve the OEC,” she told The LaSallian.
Also an addition to the law is a provision that allows the Comelec to use its Document Tracking System (DTS) to officially notify political parties and candidates of the status of document submissions. The validity of the DTS for notification was challenged earlier this year in the Almazan and Lazo v. Ababan case before the Judiciary, with the Court ruling that the platform was an adequate means of giving notice.
The LA also specified in the new law the officers authorized to sign an incumbent’s leave of absence for when the latter seeks a candidacy. It also indicated Comelec’s office hours and social media usernames in the legislation.
LA reps—all 21 of them—almost miss error
An earlier version of the bill stated that Comelec’s automated voting system is to be open 24 hours a day for the entirety of the voting period.
During interpolation, Comelec Chairperson Emeritus JC Ababan already told the legislators that polling shall only take place between 9 am to 8 pm.
However, no amendment was made prior to voting, and the LA unanimously voted to pass this version of the bill.
It was only toward the end of the session that the body amended the clause to indicate the correct voting hours after Beltrano moved for the correction.