AUGUST 31, 2017
NAMFREL Statement on proposals to postpone the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections and appoint Barangay officials
Elections should be conducted with certainty and regularity. Doing otherwise undermines a democratic process instituted to ensure every citizen’s right to choose their leaders and make them accountable. Regularity of elections is important to establish this mandate, legitimacy and moral authority.

Namfrel does not think that the current anti-drug campaign is enough reason to postpone the Barangay and SK elections, a second time since October 2016, and urges that it push through as scheduled this Oct. 23, 2017.

Figures being quoted that 40% to 50% of barangay officials are involved in the illegal drug trade is alarming, however, this data has yet to be validated.  While there is a need to rid the communities of drug-linked barangay officials, due process must be observed and charges must be filed and penalties meted out instead of sacrificing the elections entirely penalizing citizens right to vote.

Conducting the elections may even enhance the government’s anti-drug campaign and aid in putting a stop to narco-politics by not re-electing those compromised & entrenched local leaders using narco-money to get themselves elected and/or perpetuate themselves in office. This is part of continuing effort on campaign and election finance reform.

There are concerns and apprehensions of not having elections regularly and opting to appoint village officials. Going by the criteria: what is their mandate, legitimacy and moral authority? Those appointed may be prone to abuse their office and may form a misplaced debt of gratitude to their appointing authority instead of to their constituents.

Another unintended casualty to a postponement is the SK elections, since existing laws mandate the simultaneous conduct of these polls. This may be a missed opportunity for the youth to test the SK Reform Act enacted in February 2016.

Constitutional and related legal impediments also make this difficult and impractical. First, the plan to appoint officials would violate Sec. 41 of the Local Government Code (RA 7160), which ensures that the electorate has the right to choose their village leaders and contravene Sec. 2.2, Article 9 and Sec. 8, Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution.

Second, there is a need to first deliberate these proposals in the Electoral Committees of the House and Senate then pass a postponement law and pass another law to allow for their appointment.  They have to do it now since the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is in the thick of preparations for the scheduled manual elections.

To address the drug-problem in the barangay, Comelec can partner with agencies such as the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Department of Justice (DoJ) & the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to vet applicants and screen candidates who have documented links in illegal drug trade as they file their candidacy.
Those found guilty of criminal offenses or have a string of administrative complaints, especially if these are drug related, should be flagged and his/her application be rejected.

While the Comelec may not have the power to disqualify those with suspected drug links without a guilty ruling, those guilty with final judgment for criminal acts - among them drug-related, can be disqualified from running. This will ensure that the final list of candidates contain upright and qualified candidates. While tedious due to the number of applicants, the Comelec can utilize its intelligence funds and can crowd source this vetting by involving their local Comelec offices in partnership with the local community/groups for validation.

Namfrel thinks this is a better alternative.

In the latest resolution of Comelec on the Barangay/SK candidacy filings (CR# 10162) promulgated 8/16/16, Sec. 3g. Qualification for Chairpersons and Members, SK; specifically states that they "must not have been convicted by final judgment of any crime involving moral turpitude". However, this provision is vague and allows for loophole interpretations.

The loophole has been exploited due to the huge number of candidates filing, the limited resources and inadequate vetting process.  Undesirable candidates pass through the gaps (“nakakalusot”) and end up in the final candidates list. Some even get elected. Thus, an inclusive vetting and weeding out process and finally elections can ensure that our elected local executives are not involved in the illegal drug trade.

Regular election is a vital exercise in a democracy. In a youth-laden society and the Barangay comprising the most basic political unit, the importance of the polls is more apparent. Postponing elections on a whim could undermine the democratic process of ensuring every citizens’ right to choose their leaders and make them accountable.

Read more articles that support the conduct of the polls on October 2017:
PET issues guidelines on revision of Bongbong-Leni protest ballots
(Business Mirror, Aug. 23, 2017)

THE Supreme Court (SC), acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has issued the guidelines for the revision of ballots in the election protest of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. against Vice President Maria  Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo.
In a five-page resolution dated August 8, the PET laid the rules, including the composition, screening and hiring of members of the revision committees, the creation of an exploratory mission or retrieval team, as well as the compensation of those who will eventually take part in the actual revision of ballots.
Comelec resumes printing of barangay, SK ballots
(PNA, Aug. 29, 2017)

MANILA -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has resumed the printing of official ballots to be used in the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls happening this October.
Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista said the printing of the more than 77 million ballots has started last week after it was temporarily suspended due to administrative problems.
Senate to recommend postponement of barangay, SK polls
(PhilStar, Aug. 25, 2017)

Sen. Richard Gordon, committee vice chairman, presided over its first and probably only public hearing on the issue yesterday since the panel’s chair, Sen. Leila de Lima, is still in detention.
MANILA, Philippines - The Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation is set to recommend the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to October next year and for the holdover of incumbent officials until then.

Namfrel opposes postponement of SK, barangay polls
(PNA, Aug. 21, 2017)

MANILA -- The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) on Monday said the October 23 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections should push through so as not to crowd out the preparations for the May 2019 polls.
"It would crowd out and make preparations tight. However, conducting the May 2019 mid-term elections would also be affected by the outcome of the planned and proposed May 2018 elections / referendum," said Eric Alvia, Namfrel Secretary General.

If barangay polls moved due to drugs, election best solution
— analyst
(GMA News, Aug. 24, 2017)

The proliferation of drugs at the community level can be addressed through an election, a political analyst argued on Thursday.
"If reason given for polls postponement is drugs, election is the best solution," Institute for Political and Electoral Reform executive director Ramon Casiple said during the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms hearing on the proposed postponement of the Barangay and Sanguniang Kabataan polls in October this year.
SK can help anti-drug campaign
(PNA, Aug. 25, 2017)

MANILA -- A senator on Friday said the youth can have the opportunity to help the government’s anti-drug campaign if the upcoming Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections should push through this October.
“…Let's give the youth the opportunity to help solve the drug problem and other issues in their community. Let's encourage them through the SK,” Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said in a press statement.

Comelec commissioners tell Bautista: It's time to resign
(ABS-CBN, Aug. 24, 2017)

Six commissioners of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday said poll chief Andres Bautista "could no longer effectively lead" and that it was time for him to resign amid investigations into his alleged unexplained wealth.
In a statement, Comelec commissioners Rowena Guanzon, Christian Robert Lim, Al Parreño, Luie Tito Guia, Arthur Lim, and Sheriff Abas said the time has come for Bautista “to let go” of the agency.
Comelec workers back Bautista
(Phil. Daily Inquirer, Aug. 27, 2017)

Employees of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) continued to support Chair Andres Bautista even after all other election commissioners urged him to resign.
The Comelec Employees’ Union did not dispute the view of the commissioners that the impeachment complaint filed against him last week would require his undivided attention.
But Bautista “should be given a fair opportunity to defend himself in the proper forum—keeping in mind the best interests of his family, the Commission and the country,” the union said in a statement.
DFA overseas voting unit reaps praise for record number of registrants
(Phil. Daily Inquirer, Aug. 25, 2017)

The Department of Foreign Affairs Overseas Voting Secretariat (DFA-OVS) received a plaque of appreciation from the COMELEC En Banc during the commission’s 77th Anniversary celebration, the DFA announced Wednesday, Aug. 23.
COMELEC lauded DFA-OVS for its support and help in the 2014-2015 Continuing Registration for Overseas Voting that “enabled the Foreign Service Posts to attain the goal of the Commission on Election and the Department of Foreign Affairs to achieve the One Million registered overseas voters for purposes of the May 9, 2016 National and Local Elections.”

Ledac agrees to pass federalism, national ID bills by December
(Rappler, Aug. 30, 2017)

MANILA, Philippines – The Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) approved the inclusion of 28 measures in its Common Legislative Agenda (CLA) for the 17th Congress.

The decision was made on Tuesday, August 29, during the second full Ledac meeting in Malacañang.

Of the 28, 14 were recommended by the Ledac Executive Committee (ExeCom) as "urgent" in order to "emphasize the necessity of having them passed into law within the year," said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.


Cambodia Orders Expulsion of Foreign Staff Members With American Nonprofit
(New York Times, Aug. 23, 2017)

BANGKOK — Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday ordered foreign staff members of an American nonprofit that gets support from the United States government to leave the country within a week, part of an apparent attempt to silence opposition voices before national elections next year.
Cambodia has one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose Cambodian People’s Party received a strong challenge from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in local elections in June.

Cambodia clampdown, taking cues from China, targets US
(Asia Times, Aug. 25, 2017)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has entered a new phase of repression, one that has targeted foreign governmental and nongovernmental organizations and media ahead of crucial elections scheduled for next year.
While authorities have persistently pestered civil society groups Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have frequently labelled as loyal tools of the political opposition, the current campaign threatens to permanently uproot some of the country’s most prominent and long-standing democracy promoting and checking and balancing outfits.
3 Hong Kong Activists Jailed For Role In 2014 'Umbrella' Protests
(NPR, Aug 17, 2017)

Three of the most visible leaders of Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement have been sentenced to jail time for their roles in the series of massive pro-democracy protests in 2014. The sentences announced Thursday, which range from six months to eight months, revise previous, lighter penalties handed down last year and effectively bar the men from holding office for the next five years.
Joshua Wong, the young man — just 17 at the time of the protests — who became the face of the movement, remained defiant as he was transported from the courtroom by law enforcement.
Citizen observation as catalyst for credible polls
(Nigerian Tribune, Aug. 19, 2017)

Observation of elections by the citizens has become one of the global yardsticks for assessing credibility and transparency of an election, highlighting specific recommendations for improvement and garnering the support of the international community for genuine democratic elections. Also, election observation promotes public confidence in the democratic process.
One of the techniques devised to deepen democratic process through close monitoring of elections is the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology which made its name in the Philippines when the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) exposed the issues involved in the 1986 presidential election in that country.
S. Korea's ex-spy chief jailed for election meddling
(Straits Times, Aug. 31, 2017)

SEOUL - A former director of South Korea's main spy agency was sentenced to four years in prison yesterday on charges of ordering a clandestine online campaign to help the 2012 election of former president Park Geun Hye, who has since been impeached.
Won Sei Hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) from 2009 to 2013, was convicted of violating laws that bar public servants from campaigning for political candidates and prohibit the powerful spy agency from interfering in domestic politics.
Singapore: Presidential Election 2017 to pilot e-registration of voters at polling stations
(Channel News Asia, Aug. 25, 2017)

SINGAPORE: The upcoming Presidential Election will pilot the electronic registration of voters at polling stations, the Elections Department (ELD) said on Friday (Aug 25).
The current registration procedure requires an election official to manually search for and strike off the voter’s name in a hard-copy register. With e-registration, the voter’s National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) will be scanned electronically for registration.
NAMFREL NEWS is a bi-monthly electronic newsletter published by the
National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), Philippines.
National Citizens' Movement For Free Elections (NAMFREL)
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