Comelec releases amended general instructions for BEIs

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) finally released on Tuesday the amended General Instructions (GI) for Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs).

This, after the Supreme Court (SC), in a recent ruling, ordered the poll body to issue voters' receipts as a verification mechanism in the May 9 elections.

The revised GI features several significant changes in the voting process, which include the following:

1. Voting hours: The casting of votes shall be from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. of election day.

2. Prohibitions on Voting:

a. Bringing the ballot, ballot secrecy folder, marking pen or voter's receipt outside of the polling place;

b. Using capturing devices, including but not limited to, digital cameras or cellular phones inside the polling place.

3. The vote counting machines (VCMs) shall be opened on May 9, not earlier than 5 a.m., and in the presence of watchers, if any.

4. The BEIs shall meet at the polling place not earlier than 5 a.m. in the morning of election day.

5. Manner of voting:

a. The voter shall, using the ballot secrecy folder and marking pen provided by the Commission, accomplish the ballot by fully shading the circle beside the names of the candidates and organization participating in the party-list system of representation.

b. The third member/support staff shall stand beside the VCM without being able to view the screen, but near enough to be able to perform the following:

- Monitor the VCM screen to ensure that ballot is successfully accepted and receipt is printed; and replace thermal paper;

- Fold the receipt in such a way that its contents cannot be seen and then cut the end of receipt using non-pointed scissors;

- Apply the indelible ink to the voter's right forefinger nail and hand the receipt to the voter. The BEI shall ensure that the voter can read the receipt and advice the voter that bringing the receipt outside the polling place is illegal;

- Instruct the voter to go near the voter's receipt receptacle located beside the VCM to verify his or her votes as appearing on the receipt, drop the same in the voter's receipt receptacle and leave the polling place.

In case an objection is raised by the voter on the way the VCM read his/her ballot:

a. Instruct the voter to affix his signature at the back of the voter's receipt;

b. Note the specific objection in the minutes;

c. Attach the voter's receipt in the minutes (copy for the ballot box).

The filing of frivolous objections shall constitute an election offense punishable under the Omnibus Election Code. For this purpose, the BEIs are allowed to administer oaths solely for this purpose so that if the protest is frivolous, falsification or perjury charges may be filed.

d. At the close of the polls, the BEIs shall seal the voter's receipt receptacle with packaging tape. The BEI members shall affix names and signatures on the tape. The BEI shall also require the watchers present to affix their names and signatures.

The BEI shall then place the voter's receipt receptacle inside the ballot box, if the latter can accommodate the receptacle.

The amended general instructions were signed by all members of the Comelec En Banc and promulgated on April 12.

Comelec chairman Andres Bautista, however, signed the GI "with reservations on when the indelible ink should be administered."

Commissioner Al Parreno, meanwhile, also noted his reservation on Sec 6.4 on the amended GI, pertaining to the process of verifying the voter's receipt by the voter.