Persons with Disabilities, Older Persons, and Heavily Pregnant Women avail of Early Voting hours and Mall Voting; LENTE observes incidents of unlawful electioneering and illegal assistance of watchers, deviation from election day procedures as BSKE polls open
October 30, 2023, Quezon City. As early as 4:00 AM, the Legal Network for Truthful Election's 1,000 election observers nationwide proceeded to their assigned voting centers to observe the preliminaries to voting, the opening of polls, and the implementation of COMELEC innovations.
Early Voting in Naga City & Muntinlupa City
In Naga City, preparations for early voting started as early as 2:30 AM in Barangay Triangulo. Preparations for the opening of polls in Barangay Ragay and Barangay Peñafrancia were observed as early as 5:00 AM. Local news coverage in Naga also reported that some voters had to walk to their voting centers as local transportation was not available and some roads were closed in the early morning.
In Muntinlupa City, preparations for early voting also commenced as early as 4:15
AM in Sucat Elementary School, Alabang Elementary School, Putatan Elementary School, Sucat Elementary School, Muntinlupa Elementary School, Lakeview Elementary School, Alabang Elementary School, and Soldiers' Hills Elementary School.
LENTE monitors of Early Voting in Muntinlupa noted several important points:
- Voter List Issues (Some voters reported missing names in the voter's list. However, these issues were promptly addressed by the Voters Assistance Desk.),
- Early Morning Lines (Long queues were observed during the initial 15 minutes of voting, indicating an eagerness to vote earlier and a commitment to civic duty.), and
- Issues on the E-APP (There were reports of challenges in the understanding of the voting process in the Emergency-Accessible Polling Place wherein some voters were unaware that their ballots were not available in the EAPP. At the same time, ballots piled up, exceeding 10 ballots, and EAPP support staff could not effectively cater to the number of voters waiting to avail of the EAPP).
LENTE monitors for Mall Voting in Cebu, Legazpi, and the National Capital Region also observed the opening of polls and preliminaries to voting, with a particular focus on accessibility for persons with disabilities and older persons.
In Robinsons Metro East (Pasig) and Robinsons Magnolia, voting was located on the ground floor. LENTE views this as a positive development, as voting in other malls took place on the upper floors. A significant number of older citizens and Persons with Disabilities in Robinsons Metro East and Magnolia were also observed availing of the said COMELEC initiative at the opening of polls. Senior voters expressed satisfaction with the well-structured and orderly voting process, and the assistance provided by the precinct personnel.
In SM City Fairview, the precinct is situated on the 3rd floor. By 6:30 AM, the electoral board also implemented the necessary preliminaries to voting such as the presentation of the empty ballot box and election paraphernalia, including the sealed ballots. A dedicated seating area was arranged for senior citizens, Persons with Disabilities, pregnant voters, and regular voters, ensuring accessibility and convenience.
In SM City North EDSA, the precinct is located at SkyDome on the 4th floor. There was a designated media area, situated at the stage in front. This is a welcome arrangement as crowd management issues stemming from media coverage were a persistent issue during the mall voting simulation. Adequate seating is also provided for voters, and there are four waiting areas available to accommodate voters.
In Robinsons Galleria Cebu and SM City Consolacion, concerns were raised by persons with disabilities and older persons regarding the accessibility of the precinct. In the case of Robinsons Galleria Cebu, mall voting was located on the 4th floor, while in SM City Consolacion, it was situated on the 2nd floor. It was also noted that none of the malls in Cebu had established Isolation Polling Places (IPP), which are crucial for accommodating voters who register a temperature of 37.5 degrees above.
In general, the voting process was smoothly facilitated with little to no concerns in SM Manila and Robinsons Manila. However, the precinct in SM Manila was situated on the 4th floor, while the precinct in Robinsons Manila was located on the 3rd floor.
In SM City Legazpi, the precinct is located on the 3rd floor. A smooth voting process was observed wherein vulnerable sectors voting on the premises were properly assisted by those persons allowed to assist. There was no IPP established in the same.
In Robinsons Las Piñas, the voting procedure was generally smooth and the precinct was located at the lower ground floor of the mall. While in SM City Sucat, the precinct was located on the 3rd floor and LENTE monitors were not allowed to observe the process closely to maintain orderliness throughout the voting process.Automated Election SystemIn Dasmariñas City and Quezon City, where the pilot testing of the Automated Election System in the BSKE is being conducted, LENTE monitors observed general adherence to election day procedures, and the opening of polls started on time.There was positive feedback from older persons regarding the efficiency of shading rather than writing the names of the candidates.General Election ProceduresLENTE monitors across all seventeen (17) regions observed the evident relaxation of health and safety protocols compared to the 2022 elections. Notably, temperature checking was not conducted in the majority of the Voting Centers observed. There was also a noticeable absence of Isolation Polling Places (IPP) facilities, and/or integration with the Emergency-Accessible Polling Place.In the 125 voting centers observed from Pangasinan, Cagayan, Pampanga, Palawan, loilo, Aklan, and Bohol, voting was generally smooth, marked by an absence of overcrowding and prompt start times. However, election monitors also observed instances where security personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) were situated at the voting centers, disregarding the 50-meter rule. This was also observed in Ramon Avanceña High School in Manila City.There was also ambiguity regarding whether the police could establish a Public Assistance Desk inside the voting center, exemplified by cases in Maambal Elementary School in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan, and Magsaysay Elementary School in Lingayen, Pangasinan.
Automated Election System
In Dasmariñas City and Quezon City, where the pilot testing of the Automated Election System in the BSKE is being conducted, LENTE monitors observed general adherence to election day procedures, and the opening of polls started on time.
There was positive feedback from older persons regarding the efficiency of shading rather than writing the names of the candidates.
General Election Procedures
LENTE monitors across all seventeen (17) regions observed the evident relaxation of health and safety protocols compared to the 2022 elections. Notably, temperature checking was not conducted in the majority of the Voting Centers observed. There was also a noticeable absence of Isolation Polling Places (IPP) facilities, and/or integration with the Emergency-Accessible Polling Place.
In the 125 voting centers observed from Pangasinan, Cagayan, Pampanga, Palawan, loilo, Aklan, and Bohol, voting was generally smooth, marked by an absence of overcrowding and prompt start times. However, election monitors also observed instances where security personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) were situated at the voting centers, disregarding the 50-meter rule. This was also observed in Ramon Avanceña High School in Manila City.
There was also ambiguity regarding whether the police could establish a Public Assistance Desk inside the voting center, exemplified by cases in Maambal Elementary School in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan, and Magsaysay Elementary School in Lingayen, Pangasinan.
LENTE monitors also observed that persons with disabilities and older persons voters in some polling precincts without EAPP, particularly in Laguna, were forced to vote on upper floors.
LENTE monitors in General Santos City, Zamboanga City, Cagayan De Oro City, and Bukidnon generally observed a smooth election process and minimal voter congestion. However, consistent with other cities and provinces nationwide was the noticeable absence of IPPs.
In Dadiangas West Elementary School, General Santos City, members of a local party manned the Voters Assistance Desk. This is a deviation in election rules, as only accredited Citizens' Arms and/or partner organizations with a Memorandum of Agreement with COMELEC can operate the VAD. In Buug Pilot Central School in Zamboanga Del Norte, monitors noted that the voting began without properly locking the ballot boxes. When voting commenced, ballot boxes were left open and unlocked. When validated, EB mentioned that it would be locked at the closing of the polls. In Bukidnon, monitors highlighted the absence of some voters' names on the Posted Computerized Voter's List.
In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, LENTE monitors in Basilan and Tawi-Tawi observed minor delays in the opening of polls and limited crowd control measures in place. On the other hand, in Lanao Del Sur, a significant number of Voting Centers had not commenced voting by 8:00 AM due to delays in the delivery of election paraphernalia. Election materials were delivered incrementally to the Voting Centers in Lanao Del Sur. Consistent with other regions, LENTE monitors in BARMM also observed the lack of Isolation Polling Places and Voters Assistance Desk.
Most Reported Election Offenses
The most common election offenses reported by LENTE monitors include unlawful electioneering, and watchers assisting illiterate voters and older persons. Monitors reported instances of visible campaigning by candidates and their supporters outside voting centers in South Poblacion, Maramag, and Baluarte, Tagoloan, both in Misamis Oriental.
In San Pablo, Laguna, there was an illiterate voter who was not properly accommodated by the Electoral Board (EB) for assistance. The EB mentioned that the watcher should assist. In Miranga Norte Elementary School, Tuguegarao City, watchers were allowed to assist older persons. Still, in Tuguegarao, LENTE monitors reported that there were five (5) watchers per candidate when at most two watchers serving alternately are only allowed. Only the watchers for the Candidates for Punong Barangay were also allowed in the polling place while watchers for Sangguniang Barangay Candidates were advised to attend the counting of votes.
LENTE will continue to closely monitor the conduct of the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections until the closing of polls at 3:00 PM.
Election offenses and irregularities may be reported to LENTE volunteers on the ground, the volunteer lawyers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) volunteers which have set up assistance desks nationwide. The public may also utilize LENTE's hotlines: 0917 106 6265 (Globe), 0920 266 0944 (Smart), and (02) 7502 1591 (Landline). LENTE can also be reached through our email: lente.philippinesagmail.com or through our social media pages: LENTE Philippines (Facebook) and @LENTE_PH (Twitter).