Manila Standard - Namfrel pulls out of watchdog duty; opposition wary

By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard

Opposition senatorial candidates on Sunday expressed concern over the National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections’ decision to withdraw its accreditation as the citizens’ arm of the Commission on Elections in the May elections.

The Comelec’s denial of Namfrel’s request for open access to information and data prompted Namfrel’s withdrawal as an accredited citizen watchdog.

“We are worried that Namfrel withdrew as an accredited watchdog because the Comelec refused to give it what it was asking for,” said former congressman and now senatorial candidate Erin Tañada from the Otso Diretso slate.

“This is worrisome because Namfrel has been helping out in the elections since 1986. The question is: Why did the Comelec not give Namfrel what it was asking for?”

In other developments:

• The Nationalist People’s Coalition led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III will lead the party’s endorsement of the reelectionist senators, including Senator Bam Aquino who belongs to the opposition.

Aquino aside, the other re-electionists to be endorsed by the NPC, the party founded by former Ambassador Eduardo Cojuangco, are Senators Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara and JV Ejercito.

• ONLY three slots are up for grabs by at least 10 candidates who are running for senator in the coming May 13 elections, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Sunday.

Based on the results of surveys conducted by several pollsters, those occupying the ranks of one to nine were already secure in their position, so the rest are fighting for the last three remaining spots to complete the “Winning Circle.”

“So the result of the elections for senator is already predictable. If there will be surprise winners, one or two would be the most, Lacson told DZRH radio on Friday,

Namfrel said that since they would not have open access to information and data, they will not be able to participate in the random manual audit.

“Inaccessibility diminishes the verifiability of data separately provided during RMA,” Namfrel said.

Makabayan senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares said such development would make the May elections more prone to cheating and fraud.

“I cannot understand why the Comelec wants to withhold this information from its own accredited watchdog,” Colmenares said in a separate statement.

“If there is just one set of data and there will be no manipulation of the results, what’s there to fear?

“This is a cause for concern especially since Comelec’s lack of transparency may be used by the Duterte administration to rig the elections and ensure the victory of its candidates.”

Marawi civic leader and senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc called on the foreign election monitors to beef up the monitoring to be done by local bodies.

“We urge the foreign election monitors to send additional complements to the vacuum that is provided by the Namfrel,” she said.

“We also urge more volunteers to join the accredited watchdogs.”