MANILA—Even independent candidates can have poll watchers in voting precincts and all levels of canvassing, an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Friday.
“An independent candidate is entitled to watchers in all the precincts. Even in all levels of canvassing,” Comelec Commissioner George Erwin Garcia told reporters.
All candidates are authorized by the Omnibus Election Code to have watchers.
Under Section 178 of the Omnibus Election Code, "every registered political party, coalition of political parties and every independent candidate shall each be entitled to one watcher in every polling place."
Section 179 of the same code states the rights and duties of watchers, such as:
- Right to stay in the space reserved for them inside the polling place.
- Right to witness and inform themselves of proceedings of board of election inspectors, including in proceedings during registration of voters
- To take note of what they may see or hear
- To take photographs of proceedings and incidents, if any, during counting of votes, as well as of election returns, tally boards and ballot boxes
- To file a protest against any irregularity or violation of law which they believe may have been committed by board of election inspectors or by any of its members or by any persons
- To obtain from board of election inspectors a certificate as to filing of such protest and/or of the resolution thereon
- To read ballots after they shall have been read by the chairman, as well as the election returns after they shall have been completed and signed by members of the board of election inspectors without touching them, but they shall not speak to any member of the board of election inspectors, or to any voter, or among themselves, in such a manner as would distract the proceedings
- To be furnished with a certificate of the number of votes in words and figures cast for each candidate, duly signed and thumb marked by the chairman and all members of board of election inspectors
Comelec Resolution 10727 or the General Instructions for Electoral boards states that each candidate, duly registered political party or coalition of political parties, associations or organizations participating in the party-list system, and duly accredited citizens’ arms may appoint in every polling place 2 watchers sho shall serve alternately
However, candidates for senator, member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Sangguniang Panglungsod and, Sangguniang Bayan belonging to the same party or coalition shall be collectively entitled to one watcher.
If the space in a polling place reserved for watchers is insufficient, preference shall be given to the watchers of the dominant majority and dominant minority parties, as determined by the commission.
Similarly, Section 27 of Comelec Resolution 10731 or the General Instructions to Canvassing Boards also states that "each registered political party, or coalition of political parties fielding candidates, accredited political parties, party-list groups and every candidate, shall be entitled to one watcher in every canvassing center; provided that the candidates for the Sangguniang Bayan, Sangguniang Panlungsod, or Sangguniang Panlalawigan belonging to the same slate or ticket shall collectively be entitled to only one watcher."
There shall also be recognized six principal watchers, representing the six accredited major political parties that will be designated by the Comelec upon nomination of the said parties.
The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the accredited citizens' arm of Comelec, or other organizations with prior authority of the poll body, will be entitled to two watchers to serve alternately.
If the space in a canvassing center reserved for watchers is insufficient, preference shall be given to the watchers of the dominant majority and dominant minority parties, as determined by the Comelec and PPCRV.
For the May 9 elections, the poll body designated President Rodrigo Duterte’s PDP Laban as the dominant majority party and ally Senator Cynthia Villar’s Nacionalista Party as the dominant party that will get priority access to precinct-level election results and their watchers will get priority access to precincts and canvassing boards.
According to the Comelec, its rules do not decide this along the lines of who are allies with the administration or opposition. Rather, it used a point system on the number of candidates they field for the election.
Opposition presidential bet Vice President Leni Robredo, who filed as an independent candidate but remains chairman of the Liberal Party, is also entitled to precinct-level election results.