One of the challenges that the Commission on Elections might face in Palawan is the lack of more than 2,400 ballot boxes needed for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) since the previous ones cannot be accessed due to the results of the past plebiscite.
Provincial election supervisor Atty. Percival Mendoza explained on Wednesday during the kapihan of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) at SM City Puerto Princesa that the old ballot boxes can only be accessed after five years, or 2026, from the 2021 division of Palawan plebiscite.
However, Mendoza mentioned that the Palawan ballot boxes are part of the new procurement by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and are expected to arrive in the first week of September, ahead of the October 30 BSKE.
“Ang isa nating challenge, yong ballot boxes. [Noong] 2021 nag plebisito tayo, bawal galawin ang results ng plebisito kahit walang contest. So, Puerto Princesa pa lang talaga ang may ballot boxes,” he said.
“Pero nag-commit na (…) ini-expect naman natin yon, hopefully by first week of September. Mga bago yon. Palawan needs over 2,400 ballot boxes, plus isa pang ballot box for every barangay kasi merong barangay board of canvassers,” he added.
In other updates, Mendoza said that the list of voters, specifically the computerized voters’ list for posting, has been fully prepared.
He said the printed voter’s list is 100% complete and is ready to be distributed to the electoral boards. However, they are still currently housed in the offices of each municipality’s election officers pending guidance to post.
Additionally, coordination has been established with the official courier, F2 Logistics Cargo Movers, which won the bidding for the BSKE. He said the company will serve as the logistics provider for all election supplies throughout the Philippines, and the coordinator or assigned branch in Palawan has already liaised with them regarding the delivery of election paraphernalia.
Mendoza also updated that the deadline for filing the certificate of candidacy is nearing, and all COMELEC offices and election officers across the city and 23 towns of Palawan are already set to accommodate aspirants from August 28 to September 2.
The window for filing candidacy will be open for just a week, he said, urging candidates to be prepared to come early. Certificates of candidacy will be accepted between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.
He noted that on the final day, if there are individuals within a 30-meter radius of the office intending to file, they will still be accommodated.
“It may be extended accordingly, pero ano na lang po yon, its a matter of cut off,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza stated that, as in previous times, there are identified hotspots which followed a pattern observed during the national and local elections of May 2022.
But an ongoing threat assessment is in place, and there will be a provincial joint security meeting with the local Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to discuss and address this.
This initiative aims to allow the police to profile and cross-reference identified personalities linked to the rebel group New People’s Army, assessing potential threats or determining which group an aspirant might belong to that could cause disturbances during the election.
“This will be done, siguro after the filing of the certificates of candidacy. Doon pa lang talaga natin ma-a-assess kasi yong ating pulis, kasama natin sila—wala naman talaga silang major responsibility sa filing of candidacy, pero from Day 1 hanggang last day, kinukuha na nila yong data ng mga aspirants na nag-file,” he said.
According to Mendoza, he has not yet been informed of any problems related to the BSKE, and everything remains “business as usual” for now.
Specifically regarding the Sangguniang Kabataan election, which he emphasized “should always remain a non-partisan political activity”, Mendoza highlighted the potential issue of the “Bata-Bata System”. This system, a “traditional practice” in Philippine elections, poses a challenge as it pits youth candidates against each other and should be addressed in the security assessment.
He added that this isn’t just about potential links to insurgency, but also affiliations to political clans, especially given that the BSKE should be non-partisan.
“Ang problema sa non-partisan political activity, wala kasing penal clause. But what if we engage ourselves in a partisan political activity, would there be a penalty? But we have to address that issue concerning security kasi baka sila sila nagkakagulo, nagpapatayan pa,” Mendoza stressed.
He also reminded that the SK law of 2016, authored by Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during his tenure as a senator, stipulates that aspirants must not be within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity to an elected public official.
The provision that aspirants cannot be within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity to an elected public official is consistent with the reforms aimed at reducing political dynasties within the SK.
Mendoza clarified that, according to the law, premature campaigning occurs when a candidate solicits votes using materials outside the designated campaign period; only then can the offense be committed.
“Pero yong pagpapahayag lang, halimbawa pagbati, in the eyes of the law, itinuturing yon na parang advertiser,” he emphasized, which is like a part of a person’s freedom of expression.
He referenced the Supreme Court’s decision, which stated that premature campaigning can only be committed by an official candidate not after filing the certificate of candidacy but once the campaign period has officially begun.
The same rule applies whether it’s an automated or manual election, to ensure the integrity of the campaign period.
“Ang catch po dyan, what if it will be done in public places, sa mga poste? Bawal yan. Actually, ang bina violate nyan, hindi election laws—ang bina violate niya yong LGU ordinance na anti-littering. Di ba kasi pagkakalat yon?” he said.
Expenses incurred outside the campaign period, he added, can’t even be declared as part of the candidate’s Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE).
Allowable expense per voter during the campaign period is only P5.00 per voter.
“Tuloy tuloy ang ating paghahanda para sa nalalapit na 2023 BSKE. Yong mga aspirant natin na gustong tumakbo, bukas ang opisina upang tanggapin ang inyong certificates of candidacy. Magdala lang ng picture, hindi na kailangan ng valid ID kasi ive-verify sa opisina, kung puwede ay iprepare niyo na sa bahay ang certificates of candidacy, ang forms ay readily available na idownload sa ating COMELEC website, at kailangang lang ng P13.00 na documentary stamp na makukuha sa BIR,” he said.
He said five copies need to be prepared, but only one copy out of the total should have the documentary stamp.