NAMFREL says Palawan plebiscite well-organized, expresses concern over vote buying reports

First published on NAMFREL's Facebook Page on 13 March 2021.

PRESS RELEASE
March 13, 2021, 1pm

The National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) released its preliminary findings on the conduct of the 2021 Plebiscite, as observed by its volunteers who are currently stationed in different voting centers throughout Palawan. The preliminary observations cover the opening procedures, the first few hours of voting, as well as some pre-plebiscite activities.

NAMFREL observers reported that in general, election paraphernalia to be used in the plebiscite were received on schedule, polling precincts opened on time, and there was no significant delay in the start of voting. Observers also note that the process appears well-organized, and anti-Covid protocols are being enforced and followed.

However, perhaps due to inclement weather in some municipalities, there were instances when physical distancing in the queues was not observed due to the downpour at the start of voting. In Bataraza town, it was observed by NAMFREL that wearing of face mask and face shield as required by Comelec procedures was not being strictly enforced in one voting center. In one voting center in Aborlan town, observers also note the absence of medical personnel.

In one voting center in Narra town, NAMFREL observers noted confusion among voters with regard the polling precincts because the polling precinct numbers were not assigned to rooms as they are physically laid out (i.e. some polling precinct numbers in a series were assigned to rooms in another part of the voting center). Voters who were also accustomed to going to the same rooms in past elections also found out that they were assigned to another room for the plebiscite, perhaps due to the efforts of Comelec to limit the number of people voting in one polling place as part of their anti-Covid measures.

NAMFREL expressed concern over reports of vote buying prior to Plebiscite Day. In Brooke's Point town, a NAMFREL observer personally witnessed the distribution of envelopes with Php200 inside in exchange for people to vote a certain way in the plebiscite. NAMFREL is dismayed that this corrupt practice has found its way to this electoral exercise.

For the plebiscite, NAMFREL also heeded Comelec's request to help in assisting voters find their polling places. For this activity, NAMFREL Palawan opened SMS lines for polling place inquiries from voters. NAMFREL Palawan reported that as of the first three hours of voting, they had received more than 500 inquiries from Palawan voters since they opened their lines the day before Plebiscite Day.

Comelec approved NAMFREL's Petition for Accreditation in connection with the March 13, 2021 Palawan Plebiscite. As petitioned, NAMFREL deployed observers in different municipalities of Palawan to observe pre-plebiscite, plebiscite day, and post-plebiscite day activities. For this electoral exercise and in preparation for the 2022 national and local elections (NLE), NAMFREL is putting focus on highlighting the effectiveness of the implementation of Comelec's anti-Covid protocols, identifying areas that could be further strengthened, and recommending measures to help ensure the conduct of a safer 2022 NLE. NAMFREL hopes that this participation and contribution to Comelec's efforts would help improve voter confidence, and eventually increase the number of Filipinos who would register for and vote in the 2022 NLE. ###

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