Comelec: Negros Oriental special election to be held manually

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 7) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said the special election in Negros Oriental for the representative of its third legislative district will be held manually.

“Ine-emphasize natin manual po na election ito diyan po sa Negros (Oriental). At dahil manual election ito, wala po tayong gagamitin na makina,” Comelec Chairman George Garcia told reporters on Tuesday.

[Translation: We want to emphasize that the elections in Negros will be manual. And because of that, no machines will be used.]

The seat up for grabs is the one vacated by former congressmen Arnolfo Teves Jr. after the House of Representatives expelled him for disorderly conduct and violating the Code of Conduct of the lower chamber.

The special election held in Cavite for the representative of its 7th legislative district last February was automated, meaning vote counting machines (VCM) were used but no transmission occurred.

The Comelec also conducted a pilot run of the automated system in three areas during the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) last month.

The poll body chief said the pilot test showed the flaws and unreliability of the VCMs.

“Pinakita natin sa mga kababayan natin na yung mga makina na yan medyo matanda na at alam natin hindi na magiging ganun yung performance niya. At ganun na nga ang nangyari. Nag paper jam, tumigil, kinakailangan lagyan ng electric fan, kinakailangan paypayan,” Garcia said.

[Translation: We showed the public that the machines are quite old, and we know the performance won't be as good. And that's what happened. There were paper jams, machines stopped, we had to use electric fans to cool them down.]

The Comelec earlier declared the over 97,000 VCMs used in recent polls as "unusable."

Garcia said it’s better to conduct a manual election and do away with the faulty machines to ensure the poll's integrity.

“Napaka-crucial kasi ng election sa Negros. Congressional position yan. Gusto man namin pero alam natin na papalpak yung mga makina diyan,” he said.

“Kung automated kasi baka magkasira-sira na naman yung mga makina na sira sira na. Baka macompromise pa yung integrity ng ating halalan, we cannot afford that. We cannot take the risk na ganyan alam naman natin Negros Oriental yan,” Garcia explained.

[Translation: This election is crucial. It's a Congressional position. We want to use the machines, but we know these could fail. If it's automated, the machines could break down and the elections could be compromised -- we can't afford that. We cannot take the risk especially since it's Negros Oriental.]

Since the special poll is manual, individuals are already considered candidates after filing their COC.

The poll body chief warned candidates anew over premature campaigning.

The COC filing period will be until November 11.

The Comelec also emphasized it will accept all COCs unlike in the BSKE wherein it did not allow overaged candidates to file their candidacy.

“Wala po kaming discretion not to accept dahil ito po ay ministerial duty ng Commission. Ngayon kung yung magfifile sa palagay ng kababayan natin diyan sa Negros ay may issue o ground to disqualify then we will accept the petition to disqualify,” Garcia said.

[Translation: We don't have the discretion to not accept because of the Commission's ministerial duty. Now if the people in Negros believe there is an issue or grounds to disqualify anyone who files, then we will accept the petition to disqualify.]

Filing for cancellation of COCs can only be done five days after its filing, while disqualification cases can be filed until before the proclamation of a candidate.

The poll body vowed to resolve cases involving nuisance candidates before Election Day on December 9.

The commission en banc, meanwhile, is expected to release its decision on whether or not the third district will be placed under Comelec control for the special poll.