Participation Urged In 2013 Polls

BULUAN, Maguindanao - Field workers of poll-watch organizations have urged the country's electorate to be more vigilant against possible wholesale cheating in the May 2013 national and local elections, citing their empirical findings on the deficient operations of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines during the mock elections in all regions last Saturday.

''The coming automated elections would still be highly susceptible to double or multiple voting and all stakeholders including the electorate should be more vigilant to safeguard the sanctity of the ballots,'' Bobby Taguntong, provincial chairperson for Maguindanao of the Citizens' Coalition for Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Reformed Electorate (Citizens-CARE), said.

Taguntong and representatives of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) alongside local journalists witnessed the mock elections at a precinct of the Pilot Elementary School here Saturday.

Apparently dismayed over the inability of the PCOS machines to detect voters' identities, he said the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) and poll-watchers would still be playing vital and risky roles against the ''traditional practice of one or two persons casting the votes of other voters.''

Lovelyn Perida, a worker from the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) central office who supervised the mock polls here, corroborated such observation, saying that PCOS machines could only hasten the process of vote counts and transmission of results to various levels of canvassing boards.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael ''Toto'' Mangudadatu, who casted his vote at the precinct's mock elections, admitted that he purposely voted for two mayoral bets, but the PCOS machine still absorbed his ballot.

''I was surprised. I thought the machine would reject ballots containing more than one vote in a space for one candidate,'' said the governor, who appealed to his constituents to do their share in restoring electoral democracy in Maguindanao.

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