By Leslie Ann Aquino, Merlina Hernando-Malipot, Minka Klaudia Tiangco, Chito Chavez, Analou De Vera, and Argyll Geducos
More than 61 million registered voters are expected to cast their votes in today’s midterm polls with 43,554 candidates vying for 18,072 seats.
Sixty-two of them are vying for senator; 134 for party-list representation in the House of Representatives, 633 for district representatives in the House, 273 for provincial governor, 185 for provincial vice governor, 1,733 for provincial board member, 415 for city mayor, 336 for city vice mayor, 3,765 for city councilor, 3,571 for municipal mayor, 3,282 for municipal vice mayor, and 29,299 for municipal councilor.
At stake are 12 Senate seats, 245 seats for the House of Representatives, 81 each for governors and vice governors, 780 provincial board members, 145 each for city mayors and vice mayors, 1,489 each for municipal mayors and vice mayors, 1,628 for city councilors, and 11,916 for municipal councilors.
For party-list representation, there are some 61 available seats in the Lower House.
Of the 61.8 million registered voters, 31.8 million are female while 30 million are male, based on the data provided by the Commission on Elections.
Voting time was extended and set at 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to account for the introduction of the Voter Registration Verification System (VRVS) which is expected to add five minutes per person in the voting process.
“We expect that the use of VRVS will not exceed five minutes. This is aside from the expected time for an ordinary voter of about 10 minutes,” Commission on Elections Spokesman James Jimenez said.
The poll official believes that the use of the VRVS will speed up the voting process in the future elections.
The VRVS will be pilot-tested in all polling precincts in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Manila, and Quezon City.
It will also be utilized in selected polling precincts in Pangasinan, Cavite, Nueva Ecija, Cebu, Negros Occidental, Zamboanga del Sur, and Davao del Sur.
And although the number of voters in today’s polls is higher compared to the more than 50 million voters in 2016, the Comelec expects the voter turnout in this midterm polls to be around 75 to 78 percent only.
But Jimenez said they remain optimistic that they will have higher voter turnouts.
“There is room to believe to be cautiously optimistic that we will have a higher turnout than expected,” he said.
As to the proclamation of the winning senators and party-list representatives, Jimenez said they expect this to happen within two weeks after today’s polls.
The Comelec is actually planning to proclaim the 12 winning senators all at the same time like in 2016.
The National Board of Canvassers will convene at 3 p.m. Monday at the PICC in Pasay City.
For the proclamation of local candidates, Jimenez said they expect this will take place within 24 to 36 hours.
Voters, meantime, were reminded not to over-vote.
“All the votes in the over-voted position will be considered stray and will not be counted,” Jimenez said in his Twitter account @jabjimenez.
He explained that the votes in other positions in the ballots will be counted as normal if they are not over-votes.
Abstain votes are allowed as well as under-votes, said Jimenez.
The poll official also urged voters to fully shade the oval in the ballot.
“One hundred percent shading of the oval is recommended but the machine will also accept at least 25 percent shading,” Jimenez said.
He also asked voters not to take a “selfie” of their ballot, especially if it’s already filled up.
In Resolution No. 10429, the Comelec also reminded the public that the following activities are prohibited on Election Day namely: campaigning; selling, furnishing, offering, buying, serving, or taking intoxicating liquor; giving, accepting, free transportation, food or drinks or things of value.
Also prohibited is voting more than once or in substitution of another; soliciting votes or undertaking any propaganda for or against any candidate or any political party within the polling place or within 30 meters; opening of booths or stalls for the sale, etc of merchandise or refreshments within a radius of 30 meters from the polling place; and holding of fairs, cockfights, boxing, horse races or any other similar sports.
Today’s midterm polls will be the country’s fourth automated polls. The first was held in 2010, then in 2013 and in 2016.
President Duterte called on voters to come out and exercise their right to be heard, saying the election is the only time when all Filipinos are deemed to be equal.
According to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, the President also wants the public to choose the candidates who will work diligently in improving the lives of Filipinos.
“Si Presidente nananawagan sa lahat ng mga mamamayang Pilipino na pumunta sa mga presinto at bumoto (The President is calling everyone to go to their respective precincts and vote),” he said in a radio interview.
“Ngayon lang ang pagkakataon na ang lahat ng mayaman, mahirap, makapangyarihan, mahina — iisa lamang ang bilang ng kanilang boto.
Ito ang equalizer sa demokrasya (This is the only time when everyone—rich or poor, powerful or not—is equal. They only have one vote.
This is the equalizer of democracy),” he added.
According to Panelo, the President is also asking the public to remain vigilant and look out for any irregularity. Duterte is also warning those who are planning to cheat to not impose on the electorate.
“Nananawagan din siya na tayo’y maging alert sa mga makikita nating iregularidad, at kailangang sabihin kaagad natin sa otoridad (President Duterte is also calling for everyone to be on the alert and report to the authorities any irregularity),” he said.
“Nagbababala siya sa mga may planong mandaya, sapagkat hindi papayag ang Presidente na sirain ang electoral will ng mga kababayan natin (He is also warning those who plan to cheat because the President will not allow for the people’s electoral will to be breached),” he added.
“I-prosecute talaga ng ating mga ahensya ng gobyerno na responsible for prosecution yung mga lumabag. Kailangan eh malinis ang halalan natin (We will really prosecute those who will violate election laws. We need to have clean elections),” he continued.
Panelo said that Duterte wants the people to vote for those who will be honest in their duty to serve the country, those who have a good reputation, and those who are not involved in the illegal drug trade.
He also said that people should follow their conscience when casting their votes.
“Eh base sa konsyensya, kasi lalo na yung naririyan sa kanilang lokal na komunidad, kilala nila kung sino yung mga taong andyan. So dapat, sila ang nakakaalam kung sino ang mga karapat dapat (Their votes should be based on their conscience, especially in the local government since they know well who are running. They should know who is the most deserving),” Panelo said
Education Secretary Leonor Briones reminded all the officials and personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd) who will render poll duties in today’s midterm elections to “maintain neutrality, focus on non-partisan public service, and remain a beacon of integrity.”
Issuing a statement, Briones said that teachers and personnel under DepEd will “once more volunteer their time and energy to ensure that the conduct of the 2019national and local elections is credible and orderly.”
Briones thanked teachers and personnel for “continuing to be on the frontline of the foremost exercise of democracy in the country notwithstanding the demands and challenges that the season entails.”
For the May 13 midterm elections, Briones said that DepEd is mobilizing 531,307 officials, teachers, and personnel.
DepEd noted that a total of 36,830 of public schools will be used as poll centers as well.
The current administration of DepEd, she added, “has been relentless in working closely” with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and other agencies involved “so that both our volunteers receive better incentives.”
DepEd officially opened its Election Task Force (ETF) and Monitoring Center on Sunday at the Bulwagan ng Karunungan, DepEd Central Office in Pasig City.
“Through DepEd’s Election Task Force, we also ensure that are properly oriented and trained to serve in the polls,” Briones said.
The DepEd ETF and Monitoring Center will be open starting May 12 to 15, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Teachers’ groups also expressed readiness to assist fellow teachers with poll duties. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) have set up national hotlines for poll workers who will encounter issues and concerns in performing their election duties.
ACT said that it will “monitor and respond to concerns on teacher-poll workers’ rights and welfare, and election-related fraud and violence.” Its election hotlines are (02) 283 9669, 0929 720 8193 and 0956 067 9186.
Sanctity of the vote
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) urged the public to protect the sanctity of their votes by shunning nefarious election-related schemes like vote-buying and vote- selling.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya on Sunday appealed to the public to exercise their sense of patriotism by reporting incidents of vote buying and other illegal poll activities in their areas.
He said citizens who would like to report a vote-buying incident have to make their affidavit notarized and forward it to any local office of the Comelec, the Philippine National Police, or National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Vote buyers and sellers, if proven guilty, may face one to six years imprisonment, disqualification from holding public office, and disenfranchisement or deprivation of the right to vote.
Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) Chairperson Myla Villanueva said about 300,000 volunteers will be deployed to about 85,000 precincts nationwide to conduct poll watching and to man voters’ assistance desks.
After the poll centers close, volunteers will pick up the fourth copy of the election returns and bring it to the PPCRV’s command center at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.
“We also have our responsibility to pick up the fourth copy of the election returns and send it here to Pope Pius. It is here that we will validate that the physical returns match with the electronically-transmitted returns,” Villanueva said.
The 300,000 volunteers will be working three six-hour shifts daily at the command center which is equipped with 100 computers donated by the AMA Education System.
PPCRV Executive Director Maribel Buenaobra said the command center will run for 24 hours until the canvassing of votes is done.
Poll watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) expressed readiness for the conduct of the random manual audit (RMA) of the midterm elections on Wednesday, May 15.
“We are ready for election day and RMA,” said the group in a statement on Sunday.
The LENTE has replaced the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) as the Comelec’s citizen arm.
The group will be working with the Philippine Institute for Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) during the auditing of votes.
“Twenty-five PICPA and LENTE volunteers were already trained to be supervisors of the auditors in the RMA. LENTE and PICPA will not be the auditor. The auditors will be public school teachers,” the group said.
The biggest bulk of voters comes from Region 4A (Calabarzon) with 8,674,351 followed by the National Capital Region with 7,074,603 and Region3 (Central Luzon) with 6,829,659.
Next to Region 3 is Region7 (Central Visayas) with 4,946,354, Region 6 (Western Visayas) with 4,808,839, Region 5 (Bicol Region) 3,647,711, Region 1 (Ilocos Region) 3,331,394, Region 8 (Eastern Visayas) with 3,051,649, Region 11 (Southern Mindanao) with 3,026,393, Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) 2,855,792, Region 12 (Central Mindanao) with 2,431,265, Region 2 (Cagayan Valley) with 2,194,418, Region 9 (Western Mindanao) with 2,193,033, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with 1,987,495, Region4B (Mimaropa) with 1,831,328, Caraga Region with 1,760,562, and the Cordillera Administrative Region with 1,013,418.
Vote-rich provinces are Cebu with 3,082,621 voters, Cavite with 2,148,899, Pangasinan with 1,946,692, Laguna with 1,903,107, Negros Occidental with 1,889,200, Bulacan with 1,863,596, Batangas with 1,717,292, Rizal with 1,620,609, Iloilo with 1,525,168, Nueva Ecija with 1,460,450, Pampanga with 1,460,303, Davao Del Sur with 1,410,190, Leyte with 1,292,882, Quezon with 1,284,444, Camarines Sur with 1,199,609, Zamboanga del Sur with 1,108,435, and Isabela with 1,050,681.
In NCR, the Top 10 areas with the biggest number of voters are Quezon City with 1,330,118, the City of Manila with 1,065,149, Caloocan City with 719,447, City of Makati with 452,424, City of Pasig with 440,856, Taguig City with 440,300, City of Valenzuela with 378,013, City of Paranaque with 328,924, City of Las Pinas with 328,384 and Pasay City with 285,538.
Jimenez said the biggest bulk of voters are the middle age or those from 50 to 60 years old.
Next, to the middle age are the youth or those up to 30 years old followed by those aged 60 and up.