AT PRESS TIME THERE IS STILL NO CHICAGO ELECTIONS RESULTS POSTED ON COMELEC'S WEBSITE
By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2019 Journal GlobaLinks)
CHICAGO (JGL) — The 5 p.m. May 13, 2019 Philippine deadline as the closing time of casting the ballot may be unGodly hour 6 a.m. in
Chicago, Illinois for employees of the Philippine Consulate and the media representatives like these Manny Zambrano and this reporter, who endured to cover the mid-term elections at the Philippine Consulate. But it could be the only saving grace that the Commission on Elections had accomplished by synchronizing the election deadline with Philippine time in the last elections.
Perhaps, the Comelec might have gotten wind of the complaint of voters in the U.S. out west, who are still lining up to vote, when they are already hearing early exit poll election results over radios and televisions from voters back east, who are three time zones ahead of them.
DEPUTY CONSUL GENERAL Romulo Victor M. Israel, Jr. stresses a point during an interview by Joseph G. Lariosa of PM (philamessenger.com) on Friday, June 14, 2019 in the Philippine Consulate in Chicago, Illinois. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
When Filipino Overseas Voters (FOVs) were allowed to vote in Philippine elections in 2004, Comelec must have realized that with FOV’s distributed in numerous time zones around the world, the chances of FOV’s who are yet to vote but do not want to be influenced with whom to vote, must be already learning from phone calls and Internet the leading candidates in the elections. This must have prompted the Commission to cast in stone the end of voting to be synchronized with Philippine time, which only has a single time zone.
Other than this bitter-sweet scenario, the Comelec had dismally failed the FOV’s in this last mid-term elections, given that nearly two months after the elections, the Comelec has yet to post online the results of the election returns in the U.S. So, far only the election returns from Los Angeles and San Francisco have been posted. The rest, including Chicago, has yet to see the light of day.
Perhaps, the Comelec, the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the Smartmatic have some explaining to do.
But let me advance some of the causes of the failure of Comelec in implementing its mandate with some erudite thinking.
NO ER's IN CHICAGO:
THIS SCREENSHOT shows the website of the Commission on Elections still has nothing to show for the election returns of the Philippine Consulate nearly six weeks after the May 13, 2019 elections.
While the Comelec chairmen in the U.S. also called SBEI (Special Board of Election Inspectors) Chairs, like Deputy Consul General Romulo Victor M. Israel, Jr., were training on the mechanics of the conduct of the upcoming May 13, 2019 elections in New York City, NY, between April 8-10, 2019, the Comelec issued a worldwide resolution to various posts dated Feb. 1, 2019, setting up the period for the final testing and sealing (FTS) of vote counting machines (VCM’s) between “6 to 10 April 2019, (and) the SBEI shall convene in its assigned polling place to test and seal the VCM assigned to its precinct, in case the testing and sealing of the VCM’s cannot be done at the assigned polling place due to security and/or other practical reasons.”
Problem is the SBEI “shall notify, in accordance with the procedure in the succeeding paragraphs, the SBEI, candidates, political parties, accredited citizens’ arm, and other stakeholders of the place where the testing and sealing shall be conducted.”
So, when the various SBEI’s returned to their posts that was the only time that they came to know about the belated resolution, according to Mr. Israel during a video interview with Mr. Israel and Consul Gen. Gina A. Jamoralin with Jerry B. Clarito, a representative of a community-based organization (CBO), and media representatives Manny Zambrano of Chicago area-based Philippine Weekly and this reporter.
So, without informing the stakeholders in Chicago, including representatives of various CBO’s and the media, the Chicago Post went ahead with FTS in flagrant violations of Republic Act No. 9189, also known as “The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003,” and the resolution itself, Resolution No 10490, General Instructions for the Special Board of Election Inspectors and Special Ballot Reception and Custody Group in the Conduct of Automated Voting and Counting of Votes under RA 9189, Otherwise known as “The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003” as Amended by RA 10590 for Purposes of the May 13, 2019 National and Local Elections.”
Under Comelec Sec. 39 of Resolution No. 10490, the final testing and sealing will involve “ten voters from among those present.” If there are less than ten voters present, any of them may accomplish more than one test ballot to complete ten FTS ballots.” But there was no FOV present, except the Consular staff, who also acted as Comelec representatives. So, it was all “Lutong Macao” (homecooking) or conflict-of-interest situation. It was like playing basketball or boxing without a referee or baseball without umpires!
Also under this resolution, to perform the FTS, it will involve the retrieval of VCM from its box. The Post’s Comelec representative is supposed to show to the public that the VCM slots labeled “A” and “B” where the main and back-up Secure Disk (SD) cards individually stored, are sealed. These slots shall remain sealed thru the FTS procedure to show that the SD cards are empty of pre-programmed shaded elections returns. The problem is there was no "public" to represent the public or a CBO or media representative to witness the empty cards.
This reporter suggested that the two SD cards should not be the only ones to be unsealed and re-sealed but all the 42 SD cards dedicated to each of the 21 precincts to find out that the cards showed the initial of the political party’s watcher’s initial or NGO's initial that the SD Cards were indeed empty of any preprogrammed contents before they are resealed after the FTS.
Also under Sec. 58 of the resolution, the Comelec also allowed the “batch feeding” “every Mondays and Thursdays during the voting period (April 13-May 13) starting at 9 a.m. “in the presence of watcher.” This was another violation of the Omnibus Elections Code because nobody from the CBO or the media was around to watch the batch-feeding at the Chicago Post.
According to Sec. 86 of the Omnibus Election Code, “Violation of the rules and regulations of the Commission issued to implement this section shall be an election offense punishable under Sec. 264 hereof.”
> 1 YEAR JAIL FOR ELECTIONS VIOLATION
Section 264's Penalties say, “ Any person found guilty of any election offense under this Code shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation. In addition, the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage.”
Members of the Comelec Commission can only be penalized with impeachment by Congress.
It was not known if the en-banc 77-page Resolution No. 10490, signed by Chair Sheriff M. Abas and Commissioners Louie Tito F.Guia, Antonio T. Kho, Jr. Al A. Parenno and Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon, was published in the Official Gazette and two newspapers of general circulation. Two commissioners - Socorro B. Inting and Marlon S. Casquejo-- did not sign the resolution as they were on leave at the time.
It was not the only resolution that escaped the scrutiny of stakeholders. Minute Resolution No. 18-1124 promulgated on Nov. 14, 2018 “In the Matter of the Modes of Voting and Ratio of Registered Voters per VCM (Vote Counting Machine) for Overseas Voting,” was passed en-banc by Chair Abas, Commissioners Parreno, Guia, Guanzon, Inting, Casquejo and Kho, “approving of (a) modes of voting to be adopted by Posts for the 2019 National and Local Elections and (b) to maintain the ratio of registered voters per Vote Counting Machine, 10,000 voters:1VCM.”
I don't know where the Comelec got the “10,000: 1VCM” ratio. But Sec. 150 of the Omnibus Election Code says, “Arrangements of election precincts. - (a) Each election precinct shall have, as far as possible not more than three hundred voters and shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous and compact territory.”
WHERE IS OUR INPUT, STAKEHOLDERS ASK?
When the Department of Foreign Affairs – Overseas Voting Secretariat (DFA-OVS) “had meetings on the appropriate mode of voting to be adopted by Posts,” last Sept. 6, 13, and Oct. 19, 2018 to get rid off the Personal Voting and adopt the Postal Voting” in Chicago, Illinois Post, the Chicago Post never consulted the stakeholders, including the CBO’s and the media, before attending the meetings. The Chicago Post should have asked the Filipino Community in a press release if they still wanted to keep the hybrid Personal Voting and Postal Voting that were the modes of voting in 2010, 2013 and 2016 elections.
Sec. 35 of RA 9189, as amended, provides that, in the interest of transparency, all necessary and practicable measures shall be adopted to allow representation of accredited citizens’ arms and NGO’s to assist, and intervene in appropriate cases, in all stages of the electoral exercise and to prevent any and all forms of fraud and coercion.
When the Chicago Post implemented the Postal Voting (Postal Automated Elections System (AES) in the last elections, it caught everybody by surprise because there was no prior announcement of the mode of voting. The Comelec and OFOV (Office for the Overseas Voting) and DFA-OVS just discarded the Personal Voting without a prior public hearing.
Also Comelec Resolution No. 10499, Guidelines for Accreditation of Filipino Community, Non-Governmental Organization as Partners as Partners of the Commission on Elections in Connection with the Conduct of Overseas Voting Under RA 9189, Otherwise Known as “The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003,” As Amended by R.A. 10590 for Purposes of the May 13, 2019 National and Local Elections,” was promulgated on Feb. 19, 2019 but provides with a premature deadline for filing of application from Feb. 15, 2019 to March 31, 2019 that resulted with no turn out of applicant.
According to Sec. 86 of the Omnibus Elections Code, “Rules and regulations promulgated by the Commission under and by the authority of this section shall take effect on the seventh (7th) day after their publication in at least two daily newspapers of general circulation.” If this section were followed Resolution No. 10499 that was promulgated on Feb. 19, 2019, should have taken effect on Feb. 27 up to April 12, 2019, not Feb. 15 to March 31.
HASTY INVITATION IS NO INVITATION
Likewise, Resolution 10498 promulgated on Feb. 13, 2019, inviting members of the media to observe the conduct of mid-term voting to apply for accreditation was likewise prematurely issued from Feb. 15, 2019, to March 31, 2019, that resulted in only one reporter applying for accreditation – this reporter.
If the resolution were published in at least two daily newspapers of general circulation on Feb. 14, 2019, the deadline for media accreditation should have been scheduled from Feb. 21 to April 7, 2019, not Feb. 15, 2019 to March 31, 2019.
As a result of the implementation of the faulty resolutions, the mid-term elections were underpublicized that resulted in a dismal 21% voter turnout of the 400,000 Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the Midwest.
Although the “overvotes” and “undervotes” are insignificant, there was still confusion in implementing the Overseas Voting Act. For instance, according to Consul Mel A. Lalunio, Jr., also an SBEI at the Chicago Post, if a voter votes for more than 12 senators or more than one party-list party candidates, the “overvotes” ballot will be invalid or spoiled.
But according to Sec. 211 of the Omnibus Election Code, “If the candidates voted for exceed the number of those to be elected, the ballot is valid, but the votes shall be counted only in favor of the candidates whose names were firstly written by the voter within the spaces provided for said office in the ballot until the authorized number is covered.”
SOMEBODY VOTED IN HER NAME
Another complaint of Mr. Clarito was from a voter who came to the Consulate to inquire why she did not receive her ballot only to be told that she already voted. It turns out according to Mr. Israel the voter had a namesake in the list who already voted. ConGen Jamoralin said, “We are just trying to prevent flying voters.”
Another complaint raised was lack of information of the “cycle of registration,” which according to Sec. 126 of the Omnibus Election Code takes place on the “seventh and sixth Saturdays before a regular election or on the second Saturday following the day of the proclamation calling for a new special election, plebiscite or referendum.”
Mr. Clarito also mentioned that his wife, Flor, was not able to vote in the last elections because she did not receive her 2019 ballot. She was included in the list of new voters' ID's received from the Comelec. However, she was neither in the list of Deactivated Overseas Voters nor the Certified List of Overseas Voters.
Flor was advised to register again.
Although there was a low turnout of 20,344 voters this past election, which is higher than the 2016 turnout, Mr. Israel said their goal in this last election was to register 8,588 new voters within one year. “We were able to register all them before one year.”
ADVERTISING BUDGET FOR 25K PINOYS
The low turnout is also aggravated by the lack of funds to publicize the election events. Under Comelec Resolution No. 9843, ART. 4, it says, “Publication and posting of notice of registration and election. - At least six (6) months before the start of the filing of application for registration, the Commission shall, through the Philippine embassies, consulates and other foreign service establishments, publish once in a newspaper of general circulation, or in local Filipino newspapers of wide circulation, in countries with not less than Twenty-five thousand (25,000) Filipinos, the date, place and time of the holding of a regular or special national elections and the requirements for the participation of qualified Filipino citizens abroad.
“In addition, the Commission and the DFA shall post the said notice of registration and election in their respective websites.”
With 400,000 Filipinos in the Midwest, the Comelec should have set a budget for advertising for the Chicago Post to attract more registration. Its website is not enough to reach out to the new voters.
LOS ANGELES, SANFRAN TOP REGISTERED VOTERS
This advertising budget should also apply to other posts, like Los Angeles with 59,000 registered voters but with only 9,000 turnouts or 16% turnout and San Francisco which has 40,000 registered voters with 14,000 turnouts or 33%, according to Consul Dominic Imperial of the San Francisco Philippine Consulate.
When this reporter visited the San Francisco Philippine Consulate last June 10, the elections returns (ER's) that were supposed to be posted for public consumption were gone. Mr. Imperial said there was a Comelec advisory that the ER's should be taken down in 48 hours. But Comelec Resolution No. 10063 promulgated on Feb. 23, 2016, says Sec. 1, Distribution of ER's. - The ERs shall be distributed as follows: "The ERs shall be distributed as follows: The "Seventh copy is for posting." It does not mention that it shall be taken down after two days or so.
SEAFOOD CITY OUTREACH JUNE 29
Ms. Jamoralin thanked Messrs. Clarito, Zambrano and this reporter for discussing the issues and problems of the last elections, saying, “hopefully, we will continue to improve the system. There are flaws but even then, regardless, we still want the Filipinos to exercise their right of suffrage.
“We will have our cultural outreach at Seafood City in Chicago on June 29, Saturday, and others at Dayton, Ohio Minnesota and Wichita, Kansas. Please visit our website (http://www.chicagopcg.com/), Facebook, twitter accounts for announcements and details about these outreaches. Also we are organizing events sometime on August 10.
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