watchdog_orgs_namfrel_ballot_box.jpgIt’s election season once again, a time where it’s not unnatural to hear conversations peppered with who’s who on the presidentiable list, their platforms, automated elections, and the quintessential, “So, who are you going to vote for?” In fact, you might say that it’s an opportune time to vote, as Filipinos seem to have a heightened sense of nationalism—thanks to the outpouring of Ondoy volunteer efforts, Efren Peñaflorida’s worldwide recognition  and Manny Pacquiao’s boxing victories.

This year’s elections are also a milestone, as this is the first time computers will aid voters in choosing their future leaders. Our last presidential and senatorial elections were still done manually, where a set-up was made akin to an ordinary school test—people had to shade their “correct answers” (chosen candidates) and cover their “sheets of paper” (ballots) with long folders to prevent “cheating.”  This time, computers will replace folders, a major difference that can either make or break this year’s elections.

Although it seems that we are keeping up with the times, a lot of people still have concerns about the upcoming event. After all, the Philippines doesn’t exactly have a clean track record when it comes to the elections. There are hopefuls willing to put out their guns, goons, and gold to secure their place as public servants. The mass murder in Maguindanao and rampant cheating such as the “Hello Garci” scandal are still fresh in the minds of many.

On top of that, there’s the gnawing question of who to vote for. Various personalities have already publicly expressed their intent to run for certain positions, and with report upon report of rampant corruption in the government, people are clamoring for sincere leaders who haven’t set their eyes on the public treasury.

Indeed, the elections are a tricky business, and ample information is very much needed in order to choose our future leaders. As such, various organizations have been established to supply information to the public in need. Female Network is putting the spotlight on various election watchdog organizations devoted to giving the Filipinos the 411 on 5/10: NAMFREL, PPCRV and COMELEC.


watchdog_orgs_namfrel_armband.jpgNAMFREL

The National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections has been around for more than fifty years, fervently keeping watch on the Filipino vote. NAMFREL, as its more popularly known, is the first election watchdog organization in the country. Established in 1957, it’s committed to preserving clean elections; a stark example of their dedication was seen the 1986 snap presidential elections. Their projects include disseminating information to voters (through media and various forums featuring candidates), a close monitoring of the printing of ballots before the elections, keeping watch on candidate polls, and auditing the results of the elections. On top of that, they also report errors and record unreadable entries to prevent discrepancies in counting the votes.

With all these tasks, you might be wondering just where the organization is getting its workforce. You’ll be surprised to know that the organization is always on the lookout for the volunteers who have powered it since its conception. During the 1986 Snap Elections spearheaded by NAMFREL, 500,000 volunteers offered their skills, time, and even lives just to preserve the sanctity of the ballot. History bears witness to all the hard work that the volunteers gave, as it eventually led to the first People Power Revolution in EDSA. Even now, NAMFREL is still open to volunteers and  can be reached by emailing info@namfrel.com.ph or by calling telephone number 484-7590. You may also contact Mr. Vergilio Gerelago via SMS message for volunteering concerns at 0906-570-3244.


PPCRV

PPCRV, on the other hand, stands for Philippine Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, another organization committed to promoting honest and clean elections. Established in 1991, the PPCRV is a network of parishes that works on voter education and assistance. As part of their projects, they recently held a voting simulation to show how the new automated process goes. They also intend to explain to voters how to fill out the ballot and use the electronic voting machine.  Also this year, PPCRV intends to focus more on voter behavior, and as part of their campaign, they’re launching a campaign against vote buying and the forcing of voters to choose certain candidates through intimidation—problems that  have persisted in the traditional Philippine election setting for years.

People can volunteer through various means: they can help out with voter assistance and education, logistics and communication, finance and solicitation; be a trainer or speaker; or even help with transportation concerns. For more information, you can send an email to parishpcrv@yahoo.com, go to the official website, or contact them through phone: 521-5005 / 524-2855. You may also visit your local parish in your barangay regarding more information on how to volunteer.


COMELEC


Not all election watchdog organizations are private, though. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) works under the government but is independent from the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches. Created as a provision of the 1987 Constitution, when wounds from the Marcos dictatorship were still fresh, it serves as the “premier guardian of the Philippine ballot.” Its main task is to conduct an honest and clean election. It’s in charge of defining and enforcing election laws and regulations and conducting voter registration and the official counting of votes.  Also, it has the power to investigate cases where election laws are said to have been violated, such as fraud.

As it is a government body, the chairman and the six commissioners of COMELEC are appointed by the president. However it may be open for volunteer work, as according to their forum, interested parties may try to email eid@comelec.gov.ph for concerns regarding voter education volunteer work. You may also go to the official website for more information.


So are you itching to help out with the elections this summer? Do try contacting these organizations—after all, there’s no such thing as too much manpower when it comes to volunteer work.


(Photos used with permission from NAMFREL)

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