Cell phones won't be allowed in precincts

by Aries Rufo, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Jan 04 2010 06:16 PM | Updated as of Jan 05 2010 10:40 PM

Comelec says it will prevent vote-buying

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The ubiquitous gadget that is the cell phone will not be allowed in polling precincts when voters troop to the polls on May 10.

Under the General Instructions (GI) issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the synchronized national and local elections, the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) is instructed to disallow voters from using their cell phones or cameras when voting.

Comelec law department director Ferdinand Rafanan said the en banc moved to disallow any use of cell phones during the conduct of the voting to prevent vote-buying.

“Some voters use their cell phones to take photos of their ballots. We believe there is vote-buying here. The photos serve as proof that they really voted for the candidate who bought their votes,” Rafanan said.

Asked if voters can bring their cell phones inside the polling precinct provided they would not use it, Rafanan replied in the negative.

“They cannot bring their cell phones inside the polling precinct. They may have to surrender these to the BEIs,” he said.

After months of delay, the poll body finally released last week the general instructions for the country’s first nationwide automated elections.

The guidelines will serve as the Bible for the BEIs, poll watchers and voters themselves in the conduct of the elections.

No pending cases

One of the new prerequisites is that members of the BEI should have no election offense cases pending before the Comelec or the courts.

This is apparently meant to bar election officials who were involved in shenanigans in previous elections.

The GI states that the official casting of votes shall begin at 7 in the morning and end at 6 in the evening. Only voters whose names appear on the Posted Computerized Voters List may be allowed to vote.

Since the counting of the votes will be computerized, the GI no longer contains some rules that were observed in manual voting such as appreciation of ballots.

Automation should do away with misreading of votes and problems on whether a vote should be credited to a particular candidate, which were common problems in manual elections.

Voters are told to cast their votes by “fully shading the oval” beside the name of the candidate or the party participating in the party-list elections

Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer said that the poll body will issue a supplementary guideline to cover instances where the BEIs will have to resort to manual count or canvassing in case of machine or systems breakdown.

Rafanan, however, said the Comelec might just adopt and revise the continuity plan proposed by winning machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM in case of systems failure.

Standby machines

Meanwhile, the standby machines of Comelec for any glitches have increased to 7,000 following a review of the clustering of precincts.

Rafanan said there are only about 75,000 clustered precincts based on Comelec data.

Each clustered precinct will have its own counting machine. The Comelec had ordered the production of 82,200 machines, based on its initial count that there would be about 82,000 clustered precincts.

Rafanan said each clustered will have a maximum of 1,000 voters. Five to 7 precincts could be clustered provided that the number of voters should not exceed 1,000.