By URIEL C. QUILINGUING
Contributing Editor .
CAGAYAN de Oro City’s election officer Ramil Acol has assured local candidates that the election results would be tamper-free with the use of fully automated voting counting machines and precinct-specific tablet where the names of registered voters have already been stored and programmed.
The assurance was given on Tuesday, ahead of the start of the over 40-day campaign period for candidates eyeing for elective posts in cities, municipalities and provinces.
A mock voting, involving the candidates present as voters, was held to demonstrate how tablet and the VCM function.
Among those who attended the briefing were Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno, who is seeking his third mandate, and his challenger, former Agriculture undersecretary Gabriel Jose La Viña.
Moreno and La Viña were among the 41 other candidates who affixed their signatures in a covenant signing for a credible, honest, accurate, meaningful, and peaceful (Champ) midterm elections.
Nineteen other candidates, including former mayor Vicente Emano, who is eyeing the vice mayoral post as La Viña’s running mate, and incumbent 1st District Rep. Rolando Uy, who is also on his reelection bid with Moreno, failed to attend the briefing, for unknown reasons.
The covenant signing was held after a candidates’ briefing Cagayan de Oro’s more than 320 thousand registered voters from 80 barangays, dispersed in 301 clustered precincts, are expected to cast their votes for 12 senators, two representatives (congressmen), a mayor, a vice mayor and 16 city councilors on May 13 starting at 6 am to 6 pm.
“I need not discuss the details because the rules and regulations on political propaganda have already been sent to you by mail,” the city election officer said, adding that a list of common poster areas was included in the mail.
Acol said barangays should issue rally permits to all parties, as provided for by law, unless there are conflicts of schedules. “Within three days, our office must be informed on the expenses incurred during the rally.”
Lawyer Maricel Arthur, a representative of the Bureau of Internal Revenue who is a certified public accountant, joined the briefing and discussed the mandatory filing of the statement of campaign expenses (Soce) within 30 days after the elections.
Arthur said that all candidates must have an active tax identification number (TIN), maintain a record of contributions and expenditures, keep a cash receipt journal, and have a non-VAT official receipt.
Acol also reminded those present to observe the Fair Elections Act (Republic Act No. 9006) and Comelec Resolution No. 10488, which regulate propaganda the kind and size of materials, where these can be displayed and to be removed.
The propaganda materials, many of them are not compliant with law, can be used against the candidates for violations of the law, Acol told 43 out of 62 candidates who attended the candidates’ briefing which was held at Xavier University’s South East Asian Rural Social Leadership Institute (Searsolin).
Meanwhile, Roman Catholic priest Father Satur Lumba of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, who represented the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRB) in Lihuk 2019 Movement, said the church is involved in elections since both the state and the church share common concern— person’s life and dignity.
The candidates’ briefing was organized by Lihuk, which stands for Lambigit Igsoon para sa Hiniusang Pag-uswag sa atong Katilingban that was loosely formed during the 2016 presidential elections.
Lihuk 2019 convenor Nestor Banuag Jr., who is also the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) Cagayan de Oro chapter chair, said that aside from PPCRB, Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, amateur radio communications groups Clean 10 and Alert 10, Task Force Oro, and Oro Higala are among those actively involved in volunteer work for champ elections.