Manual voting a way to fair elections, says AB Comelec chair

File photo by KARL ANGELO N. VIDAL
File photo by KARL ANGELO N. VIDAL

THE DECISION of the UST Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) to revert to manual voting and canvassing for this year’s central and local student council elections could prevent the problems encountered in the previous polls, the chairperson of Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB) Comelec said.

“I think that the Central Comelec’s decision is appropriate given the issue that happened last year,” Maria Margarita Villarica told the Flame in an online exchange. “We are doing the necessary precautions in order to secure honest and just elections for the students.”

In a statement released online last Feb. 6, Central Comelec said that switching to manual voting and canvassing was deemed “best and necessary” and assured Thomasians that “the integrity and safety of the ballots are taken into account.”

The proclamation of new Central Student Council officers last year was delayed after the Central Comelec encountered a problem in downloading the voting results from the e-Learning Access Program.

In AB, political parties Grand Alliance for Progress (GAP) and Students’ Democratic Party (SDP) demanded the AB Comelec to declare last year’s polls—in which Dekada dominated—a failure, citing irregularities such as the unequal tally between the number of ballots cast and number of signatures affixed on AB Comelec’s class lists, and students who were able to vote outside the designated voting area.

But AB Comelec denied the motion, saying it was “baseless” after GAP and SDP failed to provide hard evidence that would support their claim.

“Given that we would be having a manual election, we are going to implement stricter rules when it comes to the handling of the ballots and voting procedure,” Villarica said.

However, there could be a downside with the upcoming elections as manual voting and canvassing would take a longer time, the AB Comelec chairperson added.

“Every election, our problem is that not everyone is willing to walk all the way to the computer lab and vote because maraming naghahabol ng class na professors during election season,” Villarica said. “[A]nd since manual [elections] na, mas malaki ‘yung time na kakainin nito and baka mas ma-discourage ‘yung students to vote.”

For GAP chairperson Renz Esguerra, the manual system of voting and canvassing would be better in ensuring a “fair and honest” election.

“We believe that having a straight win is always possible for any political party but we cannot deny that there were suspicious records that were seen and occurrences that happened. With manual voting, we can ensure and keep track who our voters are,” Esguerra said.

Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UST chairperson Elizabeth Anthony, on the other hand, said shifting to manual voting and canvassing is just a secondary matter next to the solving of issues that “cast doubt in last year’s elections.”

“Whether an automated or manual election system is in place, election fraud will always be a possibility if issues will not be resolved,” Anthony said.

The Flame tried to reach Dekada secretary general Erin Galvez but to no avail as of press time.

SDP, the oldest political party in the University, will not be allowed to participate in this year’s election after failing to get accreditation from the AB Comelec. VANN MARLO M. VILLEGAS

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