Dumaguete mock polls hurdle problems

by Carine M. Asutilla, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas

Posted at Feb 02 2013 05:58 PM | Updated as of Feb 03 2013 01:58 AM

CEBU, Philippines - Mock elections held in Dumaguete City on Saturday encountered various problems from low turnout of voters to failure in transmitting voting results.

However, the Commsiion on Elections in Negros Oriental said the event was successful and a lot of things can be learned for a smooth midterm elections in May 13.

Two schools opened for the mock elections Saturday.

Camanjac Elementary School had a precinct for voters of barangay Camanjac, while the City Central Elementary School opened for voters of Poblacion Uno.

At 7 a.m., the precincts were already ready for the voting process, and a few minutes before 8 a.m., the first voter from Poblacion Uno entered the precinct.

Renyboy Alay however, did not immediately mark his ballot. He returned to the table of the polling chairman questioning the names printed in the ballot.

"I don’t know the people in the ballot. I was told by our barangay captain to come in here, I did not know that I am voting for the election," said Alay.

The polling chairman explained to Reny that the names in the ballot are of those foreign singers and actors, not of candidates for the May 13, 2013 elections.

The voting process was supposed to end at 10 a.m. but because only 10 voters came, the Comelec decided to extend another 30 minutes hoping that more voters will arrive.

When no other voters came, Comelec asked the members of the media and other individuals who were there to witness the mock election to cast their votes.

The number went up to 49 but 4 of the ballots were returned due to some other marks such as ink blots detected by the PCOS machine.

In Camanjac, a ballot was also returned when the voter did not shade the circle well.

The machine returned it 3 times before it accepted the ballot again after the voter thoroughly shaded the circles beside the names of the candidates he voted.

Atty. Eddie Aba, Comelec provincial supervisor, said the mock election is intended to test the PCOS machines and serve as a refresher for voters.

Aba said voters must understand that they only have a single chance to vote.

One ballot for each voter must be filled-up correctly to not waste a single vote.

Aba said that the number of candidates one has to vote for each position should be strictly followed.

For example, the position for senator needs 12 names. A voter can only shade 12 circles beside each name of chosen candidates.

“We have to remember that more means nullification of your votes on a particular position. If the instruction says 12, shade 12 or even less the number required. But if you shade 13, not a single vote in that position will be counted,” he said.

Aba also advised voters to handle their ballots carefully. If the ballot is crumpled or there are smudges on it, the machine will automatically reject the ballot.

In shading the circles, voters must make sure that they will not blot because this can also cause the PCOS machine to return the ballot.

The voting process in City Central Elementary School closed at around 11:10 a.m.

Printing copies of the result was done immediately.

But when it was time to transmit the results, the Bureau of Election Inspectors received a failure response.

They tried it several times, changing SIM packs but it still did not work.

The team decided to carry the PCOS machine near the classroom door to be able to get a signal for transmission but it also failed.

Later, the team together with personnel from the Comelec's information technology brought the machine out of the classroom and to the hallway, a few minutes after, they were able to transmit results to the City Board of Canvassers before 12 noon.

Atty. Teopisto Elnas Jr., executive director for operations of Comelec, said they were expecting to encounter the transmission problem since the signal used for transmitting the results is in the same bandwidth being used by telecommunications company in sending SMS and for calling.

Elnas said that on the day of the election itself, there will be a special bandwidth dedicated for transmitting results.

He said they were not able to test it during the mock election because it is still being prepared.

He assured that the problem will not be encountered again on the big day.

Msgr. Julius Heruela, convenor of the diocesan electoral board, observed a lack of interest of the voters to participate in the mock elections.

In 2 other barangays in Santa Catalina town, where a mock election was also done, fewer than 30 voters came to participate.

He is hoping that this will not happen on the actual election day.

Heruela said voters should be reminded again of their responsibility and their right to vote and be encouraged to use this chance to choose leaders for the country.