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NAMFREL seeks bishops’ help in tiff with PPCRV

By Aries Rufo

NAMFREL seeks bishops' help in tiff with PPCRV

MANILA, Philippines - The spat between two church-based
election watchdogs has been brought to the attention of religious
leaders.

The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) has
asked the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to
help mediate its ongoing squabble with the Parish Pastoral Council for
Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

The PPCRV is objecting to the petition filed by NAMFREL for
accreditation as an election watchdog in the May synchronized polls.
The PPCRV said NAMFREL only wants to duplicate the functions already
granted to it by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

NAMFREL’s co-petitioner is the CBCP’s social arm, the National
Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (NASSA) headed by
Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

At a presentation with the bishops during the CBCP’s 100th assembly
last week, NAMFREL categorically asked the plenary to support its
petition for accreditation with Comelec.

Help mediate with PPCRV

NAMFREL officials also asked the prelates to “mediate with the PPCRV
to withdraw its [PPCRV's] opposition and to work together with other
citizen’s arms on such projects as joint training and multi-tasking of
volunteers.”

A bishop, who asked not to be named, said majority of his colleagues
recognize the vital contribution of NAMFREL in the past electoral
processes. “NAMFREL is already an institution. I don’t think another
citizen arm would hurt. I think we should support NAMFREL,” he said.

Last December, NAMFREL-NASSA filed its petition for accreditation,
but it faced two objections—one from election lawyer Sixto Brillantes,
and, surprisingly, from erstwhile partner and ally PPCRV.

NAMFREL wants to conduct an unofficial quick count in areas where
automated elections will not be implemented, and perform manual random
audit in areas where automation will be carried out.

Brillantes opposed NAMFREL on the ground that there is no more need
for unofficial quick count operation in an automated system. The
ballots and votes are counted by the machines and the canvass of
results are automatically generated and transmitted.

Duplication of functions

On the other hand, the PPCRV, which already has been accredited by
Comelec, opposed NAMFREL’s petition on the ground that it would
supposedly duplicate some of PPCRV’s functions. PPCRV’s delegated
duties include conducting an unofficial count, which is traditionally
the role of NAMFREL.

NAMFREL told the bishops that considering the delays and problems
faced by Comelec in the automation project, it is unlikely that there
would be a 100-percent coverage of automation nationwide.

Thus, there is a “need for parallel count” for precincts where manual elections will be observed, NAMFREL said.

NAMFREL also informed the bishops that Comelec and PPCRV do not want
audit before the proclamation since the “primary objective is speed.”

But then, to ensure the integrity and acceptability of the results,
“the effective safeguard must be a parallel audit before proclamation,”
NAMFREL argued.

NAMFREL track record

NAMFREL secretary-general Eric Alvia said NAMFREL has the track
record and expertise to conduct random audit. Besides, he said NAMFREL
is totally independent from Comelec and thus, its findings would not be
questioned.

The bishops said it is imperative that PPCRV and NAMFREL settle
their differences since they basically share the same volunteers during
elections. NAMFREL’s petition is still pending with Comelec.

From 1992 to 2007, NASSA, NAMFREL and PPRCV have shared citizen’s arm duties during elections.

Last year, in anticipation of automated polls, PPCRV and NAMFREL
joined forces and named Henrietta de Villa as chair of both watchdogs.
However, NAMFREL officials had a falling out with de Villa over her
close ties with Comelec. NAMFREL said this could compromise the two
watchdogs’ integrity.

De Villa is a member of the Comelec advisory council on automation
and chair of the Technical Working Group on the Random Manual Audit. (abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak)

RELATED STORIES
• Namfrel quick count not necessary –Comelec

• ‘Silent war’ between PPCRV and NAMFREL worsens

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