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NAMFREL finds problems, bright spots in midterm elections

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By Analou De Vera

The technical glitches that happened during the recent midterm polls have “hampered” the ability of some voters to exercise their right to vote, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) said on Sunday.

“If we were to assess the election in general, it is our concern for the voters and their ability to exercise their right to vote and this right has been hampered by obvious problems,” said NAMFREL National Council Member Lito Averia during a press conference.

Averia said that the several problems encountered during the midterm polls were preventable.

“This was the fourth time that the Comelec (Commission on Elections) ran the automated election system. Budget allocation for Philippine elections is always adequate. The commission has a full staff complement from the level of commissioners to election officers at the municipal level. The preparations are guided by an election calendar. As the young people would say, ‘anyare’ (what happened)?,” he said.

Averia noted that long queues were developed in several precincts because some voting machines had malfunctioned.

“Voters getting discouraged, thus resulting to voters disenfranchisement,” he said.

“The low quality of ballot paper and/or marking pens caused bleed-through as voters were marking their ballot. It may have caused some machines to malfunction because the ink took some time to dry,” he added.

The poll watchdog group also noted that some Electoral Board (EB) members were not familiar with some election procedures.

“Despite the training program for the EB, there were still some who were not familiar with the guidelines and were not able to respond to particular incidents,” said Averia.

‘Bright Spots’

The NAMFREL, meanwhile, said that there were still some “bright spots” during the midterm polls.

Averia noted that “election-related violence and intimidation went down” as reported by the Philippine National Police, “albeit with extreme incidents like the bombing in Cotabato City and Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.”

Another bright spot mentioned by the group was the Emergency Accessible Polling Place, which made the voting process easier to persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and pregnant voters.

The group deemed the service of the EBs as “satisfactory.”

“For some precincts that encountered machine malfunctions, some EBs served beyond 18 hours,” said Averia.

Averia also noted that the group’s chapters reported that signage and directional signs were posted in various voting centers.

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