Manila Standard - Extra day vote to cost P2 billion

23 October 2020

By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard

A theoretical extra day of voting in the May 2022 presidential elections will cost at least P2 billion, twice the Commission on Elections’ initial estimate, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

“If the virus will still linger by then, casting the ballot becomes hazardous to one’s health, then adding another day of voting will cost an additional P2 billion to P2.5 billion,” Recto said.

His estimate is more than double the minimum P1 billion that Comelec officials told senators during Thursday’s hearing on the poll body’s P14.1-billion budget request for 2021.

Recto says the Comelec’s plan to put up 110,000 clustered precincts in the 2022 polls, from 85,768 in the 2019 national elections, will cost about “P2.1 billion” in additional honorariums for teachers alone.

“If we simply double the 2019 honorarium rates of the three members of the Board of Election Inspectors or BEI, then that would be the cost,” Recto said.

In the last elections, the BEI chairperson was paid an honorarium of P6,000, the poll clerk and the third member P5,000 each. Each was also given a travel allowance of P1,000 or a total of P19,000 per precinct.

“If you have to roll over the P19,000 per precinct and multiply this by 110,000, it will reach P2.1 billion,” Recto said.

“If the second-day rate will be 50 percent of the first-day rate, P1 billion will still be added.”

Teachers in the BEIs, however, account for only half of the personnel that the Department of Education deploys during elections.

“The teachers BEI in 2019 were only 258,000. But the total deployment of DepEd was about 531,000. This was paid by the Comelec for their support and supervisory work, which ranged from P2,000 to P4,000,” Recto said.

“Policemen were not included here. If you deploy an average of one per clustered precinct, then you will be mobilizing half of the country’s police force, which on paper is 194,988.”

Recto said the Comelec should draw up contingencies in the event that the coronavirus would still be around in May 2022.

“Even if it will be held on the tail end of the pandemic, we have to make sure that voting will not be hazardous to the voter’s health,” Recto said.

“Elections should not become super-spreader events. Look at the schools every election, they are more crowded than the MRT every rush hour.”

Recto, however, said these scenarios were all in the “realm of speculation-for discussion purposes only.”

“Just the same, let us be prepared. Let us also plan in advance, make studies on how, for example, mail voting can be exercised by the disabled, elderly, and the sick.”