Voters trust teachers will guide them on hi-tech voting

by Carmela Fonbuena,

Posted at Dec 04 2009 10:43 PM | Updated as of Dec 05 2009 06:47 AM

Here’s a tall order for the Commission on Elections (Comelec): A big majority of voters trust that public school teachers, who regularly serve as election inspectors, will be able to guide them through the automated polls.

According to the latest Pulse Asia survey, 65% of voters “believe” that “teachers have the capability to manage the automated election system in the coming elections.” Twenty-nine percent said they were “undecided,” and a low of 7% said they “don’t believe” the teachers can do it.

As election inspectors, the teachers supervise voting at the precinct level. This means they will be the ones assisting voters in casting their votes and feeding their ballots into the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine that will count their votes.

The same survey showed that 61% of voters have little to no knowledge about the new system to be used in the May 2010 polls. (Read story: 6 out of 10 Pinoys lack knowledge on automated polls)

The Comelec will thus have to step up its training of all teachers who will serve during the elections. The success of the 2010 elections, which will be the Philippines' first ever nationwide automated polls, will depend largely on them.

With about 73,000 voting precincts in 2010, there will be nearly 150,000 public school teachers who will work as election inspectors.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said training of election officers will start in January 2010. “By then, we would have released the official list of candidates. We can already form the board of election inspectors,” he said.

Relatives of candidates will not be allowed to serve as election officers.

Jimenez said they are confident that teachers and the voters will easily adjust to the automated polls. 
‘Hello, Garci’?

Public school teachers enjoy big trust among voters.

According to the October 2009 survey, 64% of voters “trust” the “impartiality of teachers” in the performance of their duties, 29% said they were undecided, while a low of 7% said they “don’t trust” the teacher’s impartiality.

Distrust is higher in Mindanao and central Visayas than the national average.

In Mindanao, an average of 12% of voters said they don’t trust the election inspectors will be impartial. Distrust is highest in Caraga region or Region IX with 18%. This region is composed of the provinces Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

Central Visayas also registered a distrust of 12%. The average in Visayas is also 7%.

At the height of the “Hello, Garci” controversy, wherein President Arroyo allegedly cheated in the 2004 elections, Mindanao was tagged as the “cheating capital” of the Philippines.

Then Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, who was accused of operating for President Arroyo, hails from Cagayan de Oro. Before he became commissioner, he served as Comelec regional director of Northern Mindanao.

Central Visayas, on the other hand, comprises the provinces of Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor. These are the provinces that delivered for President Arroyo a wide margin over her rival, the late Fernando Poe Jr.