Comelec needs to augment voter education  for proper exercise of right to suffrage

Published April 26, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

With only 15 days left  before the nation goes to the polls, the 

Commission on Elections and civic-spirited institutions are conducting voter education efforts that are vital in enabling the voters to participate meaningfully in the national and local elections.

 There are two focal points in voter education: first, information on the voting process itself; and second, ferreting out fake news and disinformation. These two areas of concern are related; the latter is being resorted to in order to mislead and prevent voters from exercising their right to vote in orderly and credible elections.

 The Comelec is urging voters to verify their polling place and precinct number by accessing through their mobile phones this digital link:https://voterverifier.com.comelec.gov.ph/ 

This digital verification service was launched last April 22. 

 By verifying early, voters could avoid the inconvenience of finding out where they will cast their vote on election day itself. Initial feedback has been mixed. A good number who have verified their precinct assignment expressed satisfaction with this service. But there are also those who expressed surprise and concern that their voting status is “not found” or “under review” or “for review”.

As advised by election lawyers, concerned and affected voters would do well to proceed immediately to the office of their local election officer and the bulletin board of their city or municipal hall where the Certified List of Voters has been posted since February 8, 2022. Under Republic Act No. 7904, the Comelec is required to furnish every registered voter at least thirty days before an election through registered mail or personal delivery with a Voter Information Sheet containing information on precinct assignment.

While it is heartening that many first-time voters among our youth are already participating actively in the political campaign and joining rallies of their preferred candidates, it is also concerning that disinformation is taking place on a massive scale on social media platforms. 

Recall that as soon as overseas absentee voting started last April 10 in Philippine embassies and consular offices abroad, the denizens of disinformation began to spread fake news. Exit-poll interview results were reported; voters were advised that insufficient postage stamps would consign their mailed-in ballots to the dead mail section.  Both of these claims were easily exposed as the handiwork of fake news peddlers.

 Despite its best efforts, the Comelec’s efforts in voter education needs to be augmented by similar initiatives from civil society organizations. An advocacy group Democracy Watch Philippines has partnered with the Comelec in conducting Vote Right 2022, a campaign for voter education. The University of the Philippines launched Hirang ng Bayan to educate the public on the importance of being well-informed voters.  The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) is also conducting online and in-person training for volunteer poll watchers who will be deployed nationwide throughout the country on election day.

 Indeed, as pointed out by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David in a voter education forum, the nation needs “conscientious voters with “an open mind,” and who actively search for the truth, and who put an effort into discerning which input from social media must, and must not, be believed.”

 
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