By Samantha Bagayas | Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) slammed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for what the watchdog described as "preventable" issues that plagued the 2019 midterm polls.
There were 961 malfunctioning VCMs, 1,665 defective SD cards, and 1.02 million bleeding markers in the 2019 elections, the 4th automated polls for the Philippines.
"The unfortunate thing about the multiple mishaps in the May 13 elections is that the problems were preventable," Namfrel said in a statement on Saturday, May 18.
"Budget allocation for Philippine elections is always adequate.... The preparations are guided by an election calendar. As the young people would say, 'Anyare (What happened)?'"
The group said the Comelec should not blame the procurement law for its woes. Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas earlier said VCMs and election paraphernalia were mismatched because they had different suppliers for these items in 2019, unlike in 2016.
Namfrel also hit the nondistribution of the voters' information sheet (VIS), which guides voters before they cast their ballots. The Comelec had stopped delivery of the VIS because of errors by the National Printing Office.
"If we were to assess the elections in general, it is our concern for the voters and their right to vote. This right has been hampered by all these problems," said Namfrel National Council member Lito Averia.
Namfrel national chairperson Augusto Lagman said the Comelec should consider if it should retain the automated election system, especially when problems persist.
They again called on the Comelec to provide the data needed for Namfrel's open election data website in a bid to increase confidence and transparency. Namfrel earlier rejected the Comelec's accreditation for it to become the poll body's citizens' arm since it could not get access to these data.
"Data will tell us some things where we can improve the system especially [in] canvassing," Averia said.
Namfrel did note "bright spots" in the elections, such as the introduction of Emergency Accessible Polling Places, where persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and pregnant women were able to vote.
Namfrel also lauded the quick transmission of the results to the transparency server. By 4 am on Tuesday, May 14, results from roughly 92% of all precincts had already been received and released to accredited groups. This exceeded total results received by the system at that point of the process compared to previous elections. – Rappler.com