Friday, December 18, 2009

Comelec to start new registration on Monday

By Sheila Crisostomo
The Philippine Star
Updated December 19, 2009 12:00 AM

Original Story:

MANILA, Philippines - Complying with the latest Supreme Court (SC) ruling to conduct another registration, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Jose Melo said yesterday that the poll body will start a new voter’s registration on Dec. 21.

Melo said the Comelec would comply with the SC ruling to conduct the registration until Jan. 9, 2010 but they would be printing the voter’s lists by batches.

“We’ll start printing the voters’ lists with the lists that we have as of now. We won’t wait for the new registrants. The registration does not involve only the actual registration. There are other things that need to be done like hearings on the petitions for exclusion and inclusion of voters,” he noted in an interview.

Based on the Comelec’s timeline, the printing will start in January next year.

Melo met with SC Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Morales Wednesday night regarding the high tribunal’s ruling.

Asked if he tried to convince them to change their mind, the poll chief claimed that he just kept them abreast of the situation.

“The extension is more applicable if we are doing manual election and not automated election. In an automated election, we need more time for preparation. But the long and short of it is that we have to comply,” he added.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, on the other hand, said they were planning to hold registration even on Christmas Day and holidays to make sure it would not affect other poll preparations.

Senators earlier lauded the SC decision, saying two to four million voters could be accommodated by the move.

Senators Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Pangilinan and Richard Gordon said they were supportive of the SC decision so as not to disenfranchise the voters, especially the new ones.

These same senators were the ones who appealed to the Comelec earlier to allow the extension, but the poll body stood firm on its Oct. 31 deadline.

“Although difficult, the Comelec can restart the registration process without the automation schedule being delayed. We ask the Comelec to exert all efforts to implement the decision,” Cayetano said.

Pangilinan said the decision was a welcome development considering the millions of first-time voters who failed to register.

“The youth can change the outcome of the results of the elections with their idealism and energy,” Pangilinan said.

Gordon said it was the duty of the Comelec to abide by the SC decision.

“There should be no excuse for that. They have enough money and they have enough resources. That is a fundamental right of a person, to be able to vote,” Gordon said.

Teachers concerned over training

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) expressed concern over the Comelec’s continued failure to hold training for teachers on the use of the automated poll machines.

Antonio Tinio, ACT national chairman, said public school teachers are now worried over the recent pronouncement from the Comelec that they will start training by March-April.

“We’re very worried. They have repeatedly postponed the trainings. They had first set them last September only to reset it in November then they postponed it again to December. And now, they’re saying they will hold them in March, April. That’s less than one month before the elections,” Tinio told The STAR.

Tinio said the teachers are especially concerned that their lack of training could result to some errors on election day, and they will be blamed for its failure.

“We’re concerned over the success of the elections with such an apparent lack of preparation for teachers largely due to the Comelec’s failure to give them enough time for training,” he said.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus also admitted concern over the last minute teacher’s training.

“There’s a lot of anxiety among the teachers. The teachers are worried, they wouldn’t want to be the scapegoats in the event of project failure,” he said.

“This election will use new technology that needs technology transfer. It’s important that there’s a very high level of confidence among the teachers going to election day.”

The education secretary said that he has already conveyed to the Comelec the need to hold the training much earlier than the March-April schedule they have set.

“The sooner the better. They shouldn’t cut it too close. In setting the training too close, it seems they’re assuming that nothing will go wrong,” Lapus pointed out.

“Comelec has to come out with concrete plans and preparations to reassure the public and the teachers that they are in control and that there are concrete plans for contingencies,” he said. – With Rainier Allan Ronda, Aurea Calica

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