The Commissioner on Elections of the Philippines Andres Bautista arrived in Kuwait to hold two-day training programs for the Philippine embassies of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and UAE at the Costa del Sol. The training program aimed to familiarize embassy officials with the standard procedures on the forthcoming Philippines Presidential elections and to uphold the sanctity of the ballots.
In an interview with The Times, Bautista said that Commission on Elections (COMELEC) visit to the Middle East is essential as they comprise one of the biggest slice of voters. He also added that as mandated by the law thirty days including weekends, overseas Filipino workers may come to the embassy to cast their votes. On the question of availability of ballots due to the contested issue imposed by the Supreme Court, Bautista said that although delays in printing have occurred, COMELEC is hopeful that it can reach the target date. However for overseas Filipino workers, available ballot stocks in the store have been sent to foreign posts due to their early election dates.
Media also questioned the recent hacking of the COMELEC’s website, which marred the credibility of the commission. Bautista argued that the COMELEC’s website was public and that all information posted are for public disseminations. However, he said that just like other government websites around the world the site was vulnerable to hacking. But for the elections a different website will be used with different security features to ensure the safety of results. The commission is also looking into the aspects of implementing electronic transmittal similar to that in the Philippines for such can help in the canvassing of the votes.
“OFWs votes are important among all areas thus the visit to the Middle East is essential and the country recognizes their great contribution to the economy and their voices have the right to be heard and they have to exercise their right to suffrage. Also in 2013 there was a low turn out of voters and with the visits and embassy’s works will definitely help increase the number," added Bautista.
The debates are essential not only for those who are running for the positions, but for the people as well. Bautista said that COMELEC hosted such a debate back in 1992 and that as mandated by the law such debates should have been implemented. The recent Presidential debates were held in Visayas and Mindanao and soon in Luzon area particularly in Pangasinan. Bautista also added that due to technology, Filipinos all over the world can now witness these debates.
GMA 7 announced that 11 million viewers were tuned in during the recent debate. “The debates give an opportunity for these candidates to present themselves and showcase their platforms and for the people to raise their questions and get to know their candidates better,” commented Bautista.
Lastly, Bautista thanked the embassies for their hard work to ensure that the elections run smoothly and encouraged voters to vote right and COMELEC to count the votes properly. “OFWs should examine the platforms and track records of their candidates and decide as to who will lead the country well . COMELEC should respect the decision of the people and they should not interfere with the choice of the voters,” ended Bautista.