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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Existing infra would not meet mail-in voting requirements; would need new law

Strategies needed for public safety national elections; mail-in voting, a far cry

MANILA – The national government should begin looking into measures to assure the general public their safety would be given priority for the coming political exercise in May 2022.

Speaking at the Roundtable with Philippine Press Institute earlier today, Dr. Ronald U. Mendoza, Ateneo School of Government dean, said different groups like LENTE and NAMFREL have considered possible means to make the coming national elections proceed smoothly.

“It is clear that the vaccines will not reach the vast majority of Filipinos by the time we hold our elections, and we need to consider the cost-benefit of different types of strategies to basically give our fellow Filipinos a chance to vote and, really, to ensure they are not disenfranchised during this election,” he said.

He referred to the mail-in ballots system is just one of several proposals put forward.

“Each of the options will require an understanding of our capability to execute the strategy. So, if the institution tasked to implement it is quite weak or not yet as strong, if it is not well managed, then it will be challenging,” he further said.

Dr. Edna A. Co, former Dean of the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) at the University of the Philippines, said she has doubts whether the mail-in ballot would be a positive approach to explore more participation in the coming polls. She said it is time to assess the bureaucratic system and its capabilities.

Dr. Co said it is best to find out how the system will work effectively and the possibility of illegal activities getting into the political exercise.

“At the moment, technologically, we are not very strong on that so how can a mail-in system ensure its efficiency,” she asked. She added she is half-hearted on the mail-in system because previous congressional hearings said there ought to be options for people and could not solely rely on technology or electronic system because of the existing “access divide.”

She underscored that many areas in the country which still lack good telecom connections.

“Even if you have laptops or computers, if the connectivity is weak, that will hamper that. How will we be assured that our election manager like the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) would have a strong reliable plan to carry it out, there will be no hijacking or interventions and so on. So, that’s my hesitation,” Dr. Co concluded.

Atty. Ona Caritos, Executive Director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), said mail-in voting is not allowed in the Philippines, though it is allowed for overseas Filipinos.

“That’s one of the voting mechanisms for our overseas workers,” she said. However, she added it has been a recurring problem for overseas Filipinos who change addresses. She explained the Philippine Embassies send ballots to overseas Filipinos with a huge percentage of ballots sent back to the embassies because the voters could no longer be found in the mentioned addresses.

“It could also happen in the Philippines where residents may not have permanent addresses, having no permanent homes, especially the poor who migrate from one place to another,” Atty. Caritos explained.

She added aside from the infrastructure for mail-in voting is not very good.

“If ever we will be resorting to mail-in voting, our mail system should be fixed first,” Atty. Caritos further said. (Melo M. Acuña)

Screenshot from Roundtable with Philippine Press Institute (PPI) on Preparations for the coming 2022 National Elections.

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