MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is eyeing using shopping malls nationwide to allow persons with disabilities and senior citizens to vote in the 2016 elections. The poll body also wants to tighten the noose on the party-list system and enforce rules on campaign finance for the next polls.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr said these preparations are being done now, barely two months within the last barangay elections last October and less than three years before the presidential polls May 2016.
“We will make use of big malls for the people with disabilities and senior citizens, as suggested by Commissioner (Grace) Padaca. We will use all, as much as possible,” Brillantes said after Monday morning’s flag ceremony at Comelec.
The use of four SM malls – Manila, Fairview, Cebu and Lipa – during the October barangay elections was apparently a “test run.” Brillanted said that for the 2016 national elections, Comelec may tap more establishments aside from SM malls as possible polling places.
SM Malls is fully supportive of the plan to allot space in their malls for elections, said Bien Mateo, vice president for SM Mall Operations.
He said SM is open to allotting a space near the entrance of the malls to accommodate the opening of the polling – 7 a.m. – ahead of the malls.
SM does not see any hitch to this plan, Mateo said, especially since Comelec only needs a phone line, electricity and wide, open space to assign the malls as polling places.
Changing of the guard
Brillantes is set to retire in 2015, but hinted mechanisms are in place to ensure the “changing of the guards” at the poll body. He said the “younger commissioners” have been made in charge of the October elections, apparently in preparation for the 2016 tasks.
Chairman Sixto Brillantes and Commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph, Al Parreno and Luie Tito Guia lead the Comelec's Panunumpa ng Kawani ng Gobyerno after Monday's flag-raising ceremony, which also served as occasion for the poll body to recognize partner groups from government and the private sector for cooperation on this year's elections.
Aside from Brillantes, two other commissioners are within retiring age: Lucenito Tagle, and Elias Yusoph. Younger commissioners have recently been appointed and joined Christian Robert Lim. The new appointees are Maria Gracia Cielo Padaca, Al Parreño and Luie Tito Guia.
“Hihigpitan lahat ng inumpisahan namin. We will be strict on the party-list, the deadlines on the filing of the CoC (certificate of candidacy), on the campaign finance and on vote-buying,” Brillantes said of measures being prepared for the next national elections.
He cited the Comelec’s recent decisions to disqualify the mayors of Norzagaray, Bulacan and of Roxas, Isabela over alleged vote-buying. He said there may be more similar decisions.
Partners in place
Brillantes said he is confident reform measures would continue given the young profile of the commission’s leadership, and the presence of partners in government and in the private sector.
Comelec officials hand representatives of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections, or Lente, with a plaque of appreciation during Monday's ceremony.
On Monday, Comelec gave recognition to some of these partner institutions including the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Education, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology,
PhilPost, and Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Recognition for the Comelec Halalan App
In the private sector, the Comelec awarded plaques of appreciation to four media organizations, including ABS-CBN Corporation. The award was for the creation of the Comelec Halalan 2013 Mobile Application, which made available in mobile devices the precinct finder, real-time election news and Comelec announcements, and election results for the May 2013 national polls.
ABS-CBN Corporation is awarded a plaque of appreciation by the Comelec for developing the Comelec Halalan 2013 Mobile App
This same Comelec App, powered by ABS-CBN, has been recognized recently with an Award of Excellence by the International Association of Business Communicators’ Philippine Quill Awards.
Also recognized by the Comelec were the SM Malls, and the election monitors and watchdogs Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the Legal Network for Truthful Elections Lente.