By Ellson Quismorio
Anakpawis Party-List Rep. Ariel Casilao says the Hugpong ng Pagbabago’s (HNP) insistence on endorsing more than 12 candidates for the May senatorial race could lead to the disenfranchisement of many voters through invalid ballots.
Only 12 senatorial candidates will win Senate seats in the midterm polls, but that hasn’t stopped HNP from endorsing as many as 13 candidates during its campaign caravan launch Tuesday in San Fernando, Pampanga.
“The responsibility, the obligation to educate the people lies primarily on Comelec (Commission on Elections), even the political parties. Sila yung may kakayanan eh na ang dapat iboto lang for senators, 12 maximum. For party-list, isa (They have the capability to educate people that you can only vote for 12 senators maximum. For party-list, just one),” Casilao said.
“Past elections showed that there is still a percentage–although a minority–that don’t follow those instructions. That’s why it’s risky. The voters are basically disenfranchised,” he added.
The computerized vote counting machines to be used by Comelec in the coming May polls can only recognize ballots with no more than 12 votes cast for the stacked senatorial race. Ballots with 13 or more votes among senatorial bets will be automatically invalidated.
During the HNP’s campaign kickoff, hosts Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda and Vice Governor Dennis Pineda specifically asked their constituents to “vote straight” for the Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-backed regional party. This means voting for all the HNP bets.
From 15 candidates in November, the HNP slate has been trimmed down to 13 candidates, which is still one more than the Senate seats up for grabs.
“Hindi mababasa yan eventually (Eventually these ballots won’t get read by the machine],” Casilao said.
“It will be a close fight at the bottom of the Top 12, so every vote counts,” added the Makabayan bloc member.
In contrast, the opposition slate dubbed “Otso Diretso” is only composed of eight bets, meaning voters’ ballots face no risk of getting chucked out even if they vote straight for the opposition.
Casilao said that while there’s definitely strategy behind HNP’s decision to field that many candidates, voters should be informed repeatedly that they can vote for more than 12 Senate aspirants.
“Comelec should educate the voters. Dapat nga naglalabas ng advisory yung Comelec na (Comelec should come out with an advisory that’s) while the HNP has the prerogative and the right to [choose 13 candidates], there should be a corollary statement that, under our law, it should only be 12 so as not to waste the votes.
“It’s an obligation that Comelec is aware of, I’m sure. They should say something like that from time to time,” he said.
The HNP’s slate is composed of the following: reelectionist Senators Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, and Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito; Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos; former presidential assistant Bong Go; former Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Bong Revilla; former presidential spokesman Harry Roque; Deputy Speaker and Taguig City-Pateros 2nd district Rep. Pia Cayetano; former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Bato dela Rosa; Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu; former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino, and former veteran broadcast journalist Jiggy Manicad. #MatalinongBoto2019