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PH consulate grants ‘provisional ‘ OK to late poll watchers

Koalisyon photo

Press conference of election watchdogs in Toronto criticizing Toronto Philippine consulate. CONTRIBUTED

RED DEER, Alberta – On the night before election count, the Toronto consulate has granted conditional accreditation to affected poll watchers of political parties who failed to comply with a resolution by the Commission on Elections.

Comelec resolution no. 10052, which came into force on February 3, requires official representatives of political parties, candidates, party lists and other recognized election watchdogs to submit a list of their poll watchers to a Philippine consular office and to the Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) no later than 5 days before the start of the voting period.

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Registered Filipino voters in Canada began casting their votes on April 9.

Pressed by a petition drive launched by Koalisyon Kontra Dayaan on May 7, the election watchdog formed May 3 composed of concerned individuals, supporters of political parties and community activists, the Toronto consulate general gave provisional accreditation to parties affected by the late submission.

“Taking cognizance that time is of the essence and while waiting for a reply from Comelec-OFOV, the Consulate General thought it best in the spirit of electoral transparency to grant provisional accreditation to poll watchers affected,” Toronto Consul General Rosalita Prospero said in an email to INQUIRER.net on Sunday.

There are over 34,600 registered voters from jurisdictions under the Toronto post. As of May 9, voter turnout was pegged at 24.52 percent, Prospero reported.

Prospero said that the lists of poll watchers from the political parties and candidates were submitted past the deadline.

Awaiting confirmation by the Comelec, the provisional accreditation “will allow poll watchers to perform their mandated tasks while counting and printing of Election Returns is going on, including the filing of formal complaints in behalf of their principals,” she said.

In Vancouver, the consulate office has certified pollw atchers from Liberal Party, PDP-Laban and Aksyon Demokratiko, according to Rogelio Villanueva of the Vancouver consulate’s overseas voting section. There are some 33,000 registered voters in areas covered by the Vancouver post in Western Canada. Villanueva said the office did not encounter any issues with the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical-Scanners).

In an online post dated May 9, the coalition called the decision “half-baked.”

“What this means is that the conditional poll watcher may sit beside the Board of Election Inspector (BEI) and observe the conduct and proceedings, but any reports from the poll watchers will not be considered official. The consulate will just receive these reports,” it said.

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In an interview, Lui Queano, spokesman for the coalition watchdog said that the rules surrounding poll watchers submission should have been treated as a “directive” and not regulatory. The coalition is also blaming the consulate for lack of awareness campaign about the election conduct.

“They should be flexible. How can you have a clean and honest election if there is not a single poll watcher accredited?” said Queano. A camp supporting presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, who is also a member of the coalition claimed they submitted their request for accreditation as early as March 31, but has yet to receive approval.

Queano said that none of the members of the Special Board of Elections Inspectors (SBEI) at the Toronto precinct is known to the parties. “Voters don’t even know what condition the ballots or the PCOS machines came in,” he added.

He said that the coalition would document the incident to lodge a formal complaint.

In a letter to Comelec Chair Andres Bautista dated May 7 to appeal their certification, the coalition outlined its concerns including:

-the set distance of poll watchers from the PCOS machines at 3-4 meters as unacceptable;

– the mailing of ballots to registered voters was not promptly done; that there are several cases of more than one ballot having been sent to a single registered voter;

– there have been erratic changes in the handling of personal voting; for : at first, the receipt of the ballot would be given to the voter, but then later on, it would no longer be given;

– the observed lack of preparedness of the consulate in the conduct of the elections, amid unresolved problems about the PCOS machines and questions about how the results would be representative of the will of the voters;

– the overall lack of public information regarding the process of voting; the process of vote-counting, and the protective measures to keep the votes safe from tampering.

Other convenors of the coalition include Duterte supporter Joey Abrenilla, community activist and organizer Mithi Esguerra, Anakbayan Toronto organizer Ysh Cabana, GABRIELA Ontario Vice-chair Rafunzel Korngut, writer Petronila Cleto and union organizer Bayani Edades.

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TAGS: Commission on Elections, Koalisyon Kontra Dayaan, Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV), Philippine Consulate Toronto, poll watcher controversy Toronto, poll watchers Philippine elections 2016, Toronto Consul General Rosalita Prospero
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