Withdraw the Comelec Precinct Finder
To be assured of my precinct number for the coming elections, I accessed the vaunted “Precinct Finder” of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) at https:voterverifier.comelec.gov.ph. After answering the required questions, I was shocked with the result that said:
“NO RECORD FOUND” as shown in the following photo I took with my cellphone:
Horrified that I would be disenfranchised despite having dutifully voted during all the past elections, I sent the above photo to election lawyer Romulo Macalintal and retained his professional help to sue, if necessary, the Comelec and/or the officials responsible for illegally depriving me of my constitutional right of suffrage.
Macalintal replied that hundreds of voters had the same problem and asked my permission to use the photo in a press conference he was scheduled to hold that very morning. I gladly gave my consent to vindicate me and all others who had been similarly disenfranchised.
After the press conference, Macalintal told me he secured a physical “List of Voters” from the Comelec, which showed that my wife Leni and I were listed in Precinct 0205A in Makati where, to the best of my recollection, we actually voted during the past election.
WHILE MY IMMEDIATE CONCERN WAS SPEEDILY RESOLVED, I nonetheless looked deeper into the laws and regulations on precinct assignments to assist the electorate especially the 4.1 million new young voters, aged 18-21, who have not received any notice of whether their application for registration have been duly-approved and/or who may have been falsely told by the unreliable Comelec Precinct Finder that there is NO RECORD FOUND of their registration.
Aside from the “List of Voters” mentioned by Macalintal, the names of the voters are required by law (Republic Act No. 8189) to be posted 90 days prior to the Election Day (that is, on Feb. 8) in the Office of the Election Registrar and in the bulletin boards of the local government units concerned.
On Election Day, May 9, a copy of the list of voters for every precinct is required to be posted at the polling places, with another copy to the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), as the Comelec’s citizen arm, precisely to assist voters in finding their polling centers and precincts.
Most important, the Electoral Boards (formerly called the Board of Election Inspectors) will have in their custody on May 9, a master list called Election Day Computerized Voters List (EDCVL), which is the prima facie authority on who may vote in a specific precinct. Though a voter’s name may be included in the Comelec Precinct Finder, or in the list posted 90 days prior Election Day, or in the PPCRV copy, or even in the ones posted outside the precincts, he/she will not be allowed to vote unless his/her name is included in the EDCVL.
JUST AS I WAS WRITING THIS COLUMN, a printed hand-out was received by my household titled “Voter Information Sheet” or VIS detailing, among others, the following information:
“NAME: PANGANIBAN, ARTEMIO VILLASENOR
“ADDRESS (my address is correctly stated)
“Precinct No. Assignment: 0205A/CP# 75
“Name and Location DASMARINAS CLUBHOUSE
of Voting Center: CAMPANILLA ST.”
Indeed, this simple VIS put to terrible shame the unhelpful and confusing Comelec Precinct Finder and veritably exposed it as a nuisance that merely erodes the credibility of the Comelec. The poll body should immediately expurgate it, like it unabashedly purges nuisance candidates.
I do not know how much this useless gimmick cost, but I think the Comelec should withdraw it now given its unreliability and the availability of the more reliable sources of information I outlined, especially the VIS that was issued pursuant to law (RA 7904) and that could be used to contest the EDCVL. After it is rid of errors and blunders, the Precinct Finder could be reinstated at some future time. The poll agency need not be reminded that hi-tech and digital apps should be thoroughly tested before they are inflicted on the public.
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