ELECTIONS 2022: NAMFREL says COMELEC should be more transparent, inclusive in process

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Filipino election workers stand behind chained ballot boxes at a tabulation centre in Manila May 13, 2004. Election watchdog NAMFREL is urging the poll body COMELEC to promote greater transparency and inclusivity amid issues in its election processes. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo  CR/SH
Filipino election workers stand behind chained ballot boxes at a tabulation centre in Manila May 13, 2004. Election watchdog NAMFREL is urging the poll body COMELEC to promote greater transparency and inclusivity amid issues in its election processes. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo CR/SH

An election watchdog raised concerns to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) due to the “absence or lack of transparency of the processes” of the poll body.

“With less than two weeks before the elections, we urge the Commission to be more transparent in its actions, encourage the promotion of inclusivity and participation by initiating conversations with stakeholders, and provide clear information in response to any issues or concerns raised by citizens and/or citizen groups,” the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) said in a statement Monday (April 25)

The poll watchdog cited cases, petitions, and preparations for the 2022 elections handled by Comelec as reasons for the concern.

NAMFREL President and former COMELEC commissioner Gus Lagman, on Friday, bared his distrust over the election body’s automated election system due to its “non-compliance to law.”

Lagman said that unlike before, poll watchers this year were barred from observing 70% of ballot printing.

According to the Omnibus Election Code, the poll body shall allow any person to observe the proceedings of the committee on the printing of official ballots.

During the printing period, COMELEC Commissioner Marlon Casquejo temporarily suspended the observation provision due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In their statement, NAMFREL also underscored the existence of election laws and processes to investigate and penalize election-related offenses. “The focus ought to be on educating the public of these mechanisms, instead of resorting to warnings,” the poll watchdog said.

This comes after Commissioner Rey Bulay issued a warning to critics of the commission that he would call upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines to arrest them.

“Any action or series of actions taken by the Commission may be perceived differently by citizens and citizen groups, and may lead them to express their perceptions and opinions, in agreement with the Commission or otherwise,” NAMFREL added.

Basti Evangelista is a news and opinion writer who focuses on Philippine national politics and sectoral issues. His personal advocacy includes press freedom and social justice.

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