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Boto ko, ipagtanggol ko. Advocating for a Champ
by Roderick Pacuyan

The 2010 elections was historic and said to be generally successful, albeit the glitches incurred during the first nationwide implementation of an automated casting and counting of votes.

Analysts say the 2013 midterm elections will spell the success of automation as the Commission on Elections is expected to have addressed the technical problems that were encountered in the past.

Like the candidates, the Comelec is also under scrutiny. It is in this exercise where both the candidates and the public will judge if the agency could carry on with its duties.

It is in this arena where citizens or lay participants also play a crucial role. The Church, through its parishioners, established a citizen’s arm to guide and educate the electorate about their rights and in ensuring that the sanctity of votes are upheld and protected.

Technology has not stopped the role of election watchdog groups such as the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV). It continues to carry on with its mandate: voter’s education, poll watching, and conduct of unofficial parallel quick counts.

In terms of voter’s education, the PPCRV’s role is to help mold responsible citizens and encourage their informed involvement in good governance; to give emphasis on the commandments for responsible voting; and to stress on the karakter, kakayahan, and katapatan (3K) traits during infomercials.

As correctly pointed out in the PPCRV’s conference statement, “The culture of Philippine politics continues to demand renewal. The 3Gs – guns, goons, and gold that plagued our elections then still haunt our elections now, with an additional G – greed. It said while the automated elections have shown a dramatic decline in dagdag-bawas, it has to remain on guard versus vote buying and selling.”

“A good number of politicians are unabashed in employing all means to tighten their stronghold on political, and consequently, economic powers. Yet voters can’t seem to activate their conscience when it comes to choosing their candidates.”

In the PPCRV’s conference on March 6 to 8, it said the Philippines is still “in crisis” in terms of maintaining credible elections.

Through the various platforms that it employs in educating voters, the PPCRV and its partner media organization began organizing a candidates’ forum where the aspirants are given the chance to disseminate their platforms of governance.

So far, politicians of Baguio and Benguet have been adhering to a peaceful means in campaigning. We hope this practice will be observed until the end of the 2013 elections and will be preserved even in the succeeding elections.

Winning candidates on the other hand, must be consistent by fulfilling their promises once they get elected.

Another mandate of the PPCRV is poll watching. In adhering to these duties, the volunteers are tasked to have an integrated program for the parishes in monitoring elections; to deploy volunteers in order to determine the clustered polling precincts and the number of poll watchers to be fielded on election day; and to retrieve a fourth copy of the election returns printed by the Precinct Count Optical Scan machines prior to its transmission.

For Baguio and Benguet, there are 2,435 volunteers who will be mobilized on May 13.

As a citizen’s arm, the PPRCV’s duties do not only concern parallel quick counts. In its organizational set-up, there are seven types of volunteers.

They are the accountable materials verifiable audit trail team poll watcher (AMVATT), the post election patrol watcher (PEP), power prayer group poll watcher (PPG), polling precinct poll watcher (PPP), special witness of truth poll watcher (SWOT), technical assistance group poll watcher (TAG), voters’ assistance desk poll watcher (VAD), and unofficial parallel count encoder (UPCE).

The AMVATT is especially trained to monitor the bidding, procurement, production, packaging, shipment, distribution, or deployment of election materials such as PCOS machines, the consolidation and canvassing system machines including securing the warehouses and hubs of all automated election system equipment and paraphernalia prior to election day.

The PEP monitors the performance and program of government of winning candidates, using the 3K assessment as guide.

Prayer campaign is the task of the PPG.

Among the seven volunteers under its wing, the PPP’s task is the heaviest during election day. They will monitor the conduct of elections inside the polling place and document irregularities and incidents and file protests against those who violate the law. They are also tasked in securing a copy of machine-generated election returns before and after transmission. PPPs also sign audit logs of all election returns.

The SWOT provides support to PPCRV parish units that need assistance in areas that do not have enough volunteers. They are tasked at retrieving the fourth copy of the election returns after the close of voting and prior to transmission.

TAGs monitor the certification process of PCOS and CCS machines and are responsible in the pre and field-testing of these machines.

The VAD assists voters especially the elderly, disabled, and the pregnant in looking for their precinct, sequence, and clustered precinct numbers in the voter’s list, while the UPCE encodes the pre-transmission copy of election returns at the national command center.

The PPCRV also extends support services like legal, logistics, media liaison, transportation, secretarial, and voter’s education.

Through an educated and vigilant electorate, we hope to have courageous, humble, accountable, meek and prayerful (CHAMP) leaders.
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:: Politicos, then and now
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:: Local Politics in the era of automated elections
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