Lawmakers see ballot format as cause of ‘disenfranchisement’ of partylist voters

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

Lawmakers scored Wednesday the supposed “disenfranchisement” of partylist voters, even as they chided the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for its failure to educate the voters that the partylist was put at the back of the ballot.

House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez (KJ ROSALES / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO) House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez (KJ ROSALES / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Members of the House Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez questioned the poll body for putting partylist choices at the back of the ballot, even they grilled the Comelec over the seven-hour delay in the posting of results by the transparency server.

"Bakit hindi nyo brini-brief ang mga botante na ang partylist ay nasa likod ng balota? Puede akong magisip na maraming hindi nakaboto at karamihan sa partylist namin sa minority nagtaka kami sa mga historical data, 400,000 to 500,000 kada eleksyon ngayon down to 100,000 to 120, 000 anlaki ng binagasak eh nagpe-perform itong mga partylists natin, 'yung mga deliverables nila they committed to those areas where all delivered,” Suarez said during his panel’s hearing on poll glitches.

AKO BICOL partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said there was a "failure of election” as far as the partylist election is concerned

“The format of the ballot especially in the partylist election as we have right now in 2019 elections can definitely affect the total turn out of votes in the partylist elections. I hope you would agree with me nilagay nyo ho sa likod eh,” he said.

“If I am not mistaken, 27 million total votes cast for partylist election, out of 63 million registered voters, sobrang bagsak 'yung boto sa partylist as compared to 2016 election and that caused millions of disenfranchisement among our constituencies,” Garbin said.

He noted that in the 2016 elections, AKO BICOL garnered 1.7 million votes, 1.1 million of which belongs to the Bicol region.

"Ngayon kalahati na ho galing sa Bicol region, bumagsak kami ng 600,000 votes, the reason, pag tinanong 'yung mga Bicolano hindi namin alam kung saan nakalagay yung partylist nandun sa likod. Even my used-to-be law partner tumawag sa akin, “Cong, nakalimutan ko, bumalik ko sa polling place para sumigaw lang na yung partylist nasa likod”. Walang naga-advise sa mga botante na ang partylist ay nasa likod.”,” Garbin said.

“That is why the numbers tell us that 40 percent, not even 50 percent and turn out, total votes cast in the partylist elections. Bakit nyo ho nilagay sa likod?,” he asked.

COOP-NATCCO partylist Rep. Anthony Bravo noted that partylist voters’ turn out is only at 42.87 percent, which is the lowest turn out in the partylist elections.

AGRI partylist Rep. Orestes Salon said a total of 20 incumbent partylist lawmakers failed to make it after failing to muster the required votes.

“I’m not sourgraping. We gathered 200,000 votes in the 2013 elections. In the 2016 election, we had more than 800,000 and this 2019, we had 133,000 votes only. I don’t know what happened to us. Twenty incumbent partylist ang hindi nakapasok. Hindi namin alam kung saan magrereklamo,” he said.

“Hindi namin alam kung saan mag-uumpisa. Nagkaroon ba ng shaving of votes?,” he asked.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the format of the ballot was covered by the Comelec resolution since its design must be approved by the poll body after Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel asked Comelec who decided that the partylist be placed at the back of the ballot.

He noted that the long list of 134 partylist groups was factored in the Comelec’s decision to put partylist at the back of the ballot.

Garbin and Bravo claimed that it was the first time that the partylist was put at the back of the ballot.

During the hearing, Suarez proposed the return of manual elections and vote-counting, but the automatic transmission of poll data—particularly at the precinct level

“Is it possible that we can go back to manual and then the transmission is electronic, pero may maiiwang record kung ano talaga ang nangyari sa bawat presinto,” he said.

“I won’t be surprised that there might be members of next Congress who might want to, "Let’s go back on manual" on the election process and counting process and electronic ang data transmission,” he said.

Salon rallied behind Suarez’s proposal, citing that the seven-hour delay in the posting of results by the transparency server “leaves a lot of doubt.”

Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) board member Arwin Serrano said amid the seven-hour glitch, they are “satisfied” with the conduct of the midterm polls.

“Kami ay satisfied rin in general, pero tinitingnan namin na there is always room for improvement, sa susunod na halalan sa 2022, 'yung natutunan sa 2019 elections ay masagawa natin at maimprove pa,” he told the panel.

The Suarez panel is expected to conduct another hearing on June 3.

It is counting on the Comelec chairman Shariff Abas and the information technology experts of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to attend the hearing.