'BAN VOTING GUIDE FOLDERS’

04/13/2010 - The invention of special “voting guide folders” in Lapu-Lapu City will be a test case for the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

A complaint was filed yesterday by the local opposition to outlaw this type of “codigo” saying it would be used for vote-buying and was a clever tool that “destroys the secrecy of the ballot.”

The sample folder and ballot attached as evidence had instructions in Cebuano to shade

spaces near the names of Mayor Arturo Radaza and other administration bets in the Lakas-CMD-Kampi.

The complaint was filed by the local KKK Party seeking a ruling from the Comelec on what were acceptable “codigos” for voters to bring to the precincts on May 10.

A joint affidavit of two supporters of Efrain Pelaez Jr., KKK mayoralty candidate in Lapu-Lapu, said they took part in a “voting drill” of the Radaza camp and saw how voters were given folders and taught how to use them with a promise of a reward (“pahalipay”) after the folder is returned later.

If the allegation is proven, the Mactan “codigo” could be one of the first cheating devices designed to deal with the changes in poll automation in the Philippines.

The folders have instructions to shade up to the “red” part encircling holes in the guide sheet correspondiing to names of adminstration bets on the ballot.

“It is only when they see that the red area was shaded will they be assured that a vote was cast as instructed, and the voter then gets the balance (of payment),” the complaint said..

Nestor Ymbong, spokesman of Mayor Radaza, said the mayor would answer the allegations in a press conference later as well as critics’ challenge that he take a blood pressure test amidst reports of poor health.

Radaza is running for congressman in the lone district of Lapu-Lapu under the Lakas-CMD-Kampi. His wife Paz, who is barangay captain of Mactan, is administration candidate for mayor.

A copy of the complaint was given to the Comelec-Central Visayas office yesterday.

The main complaint will be handled by the Comelec en banc in Manila, not the regional office.

It alleged that barangay workers in Babag had been holding voting drills using what looked like Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines since March 22.

Folders were distributed with pre-cut holes.

The holes corresponded to the oval-shaped spaces opposite the names of administration candidates printed on the official ballot which the voter is supposed to shade.

The folders are so designed so that shading the holes would mark the Lakas-Kampi candidates of Radaza’s team.

Voters in the drill were told that the folders, made of stiff paper, would be given to them on election day. After voting, they had to return them to “a designated person who would be posted outside the voting center.”

In their joint affidavit, Edwin Ybalez and Dario Dungog said they saw all this take place in the Babag Sports Center on March 22.

They were not allowed to get inside but watched what was happening through an opening at one side of the Sports Center.

They said the drill leader instructed participants how to use the folders. Shading the holes would leave a mark on the guide foler. After voting, they were supposed to return these to a designated person posted outside the voting center “so they could claim their pahalipay or something that would make them happy.”

Voters were also instructed to vote straight for the administration party.

Ybalez and Dungog said they returned to the sports center a few days later and this time, they were allowed to get inside. The saw the same procedure as the March 22 event.

This time, they got a closer look at the folder and noticed that it had holes that matched the oval spaces next to the names of administration candidates printed on the demo ballot.

According to the complaint, the folders couldn't qualify as a guide or “codigo” authorized by the Comelec since it was not prepared by the voters themselves but by a group.

“It is very clear that identifying marks or features are to be avoided, in the very same way that the law prohibits the use of carbon paper or other devices that may identify the vote,” said the complaint.

They said this was a “sure scheme” to foster vote-buying.

The Comelec was asked to ban the use of the voting guide folders “if only to uphold the secrecy of votes and sanctity of the ballot, as well as to prevent the surge of vote-buying and the corruption of this new automated election system.” (Cebu Daily News)

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