Friday, March 16, 2018
House OKs bill postponing Barangay, SK polls on 2nd reading
(ABS-CBN News, Mar 14, 2018)

MANILA - The House of Representatives has approved on 2nd reading a bill seeking the third postponement of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) scheduled on May 14. 

The bill was sponsored despite pronouncements from the Senate expressing the upper chamber's coldness to another postponement. The BSKE was last held in 2013.

The bill was submitted by the House Suffrage Committee after a controversial committee hearing where opponents accused advocates of the bill of orchestrating a no-election scenario that could allow incumbent officials to extend their terms. 

One of the bill's goals is to have the BSKE to coincide with a planned plebiscite on a new constitution.

The approval came after a closed-door caucus by all congressmen before the 4 p.m. plenary session.

Poll watchdog asks: Is barangay polls delay a 'trial balloon' for No-el?
(ABS-CBN News, Mar 14, 2018)

MANILA - The National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) on Wednesday expressed disappointment over the move of a congressional panel to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Eric Jude Alvia, secretary general of NAMFREL, said he hopes that this move is not connected to the push for charter change, noting that it could be a "trial balloon" for the plan to postpone the 2019 midterm polls.

"I hope the barangay is isolated from all these political moves," he told ANC. "It is possible. It could be a trial balloon just to test the sentiments of the people."

Nene Pimentel, IBP, Namfrel reject no-election scenario in May 2019
(Rappler, Mar 13, 2018)

MANILA, Philippines – Former Senate president Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr and 9 other Senate resource persons oppose a no-election scenario in May 2019, amid the bid to change the 1987 Constitution.

Pimentel, one of the 25 members of President Rodrigo Duterte's Consultative Committee (Con-Com), said that a "no-el" scenario is against the Constitution.

"A no-election scenario would unduly prolong the exercise of powers and privileges even of undeserving elective officials, and deprive those who may be more deserving of elective public offices from having the opportunity to seek the mandate of the people to serve them," Pimentel said in his position paper submitted to the Senate committee on constitutional amendments.

Why House members want to postpone barangay, SK elections
(Rappler, Mar 13, 2018)

MANILA, Philippines – Despite opposition from various sectors, the House of Representatives' committee on suffrage approved the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to October 8, from the original May 14 this year.

Four House members filed separate bills to postpone the barangay and SK polls for the 3rd time.

Two of these bills mention the need for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to better prepare for the polls, while the two others cite preparations for a plebiscite for a new constitution, which is a priority of the Duterte administration.

Here is a detailed breakdown of the reasons cited in these 4 bills.

Namfrel urges Comelec: Screen village poll bets carefully
(PNA, Mar 6, 2018)

MANILA -- An election watchdog asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to screen would-be candidates in the May 14, 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls who have reportedly joined recent mass oath-taking activities by political parties.

This, as the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) noted that village polls aspirants are barred from being members of any political party, as stated in the guidelines set by the poll body in the filing of Certificates of Candidacy (COCs).

“How will Comelec effectively disqualify aspirants for barangay chair and council members, who will file COCs after reportedly having taken part in recent mass oath takings conducted by major political parties across the country?” the citizens arm of the poll body in the last elections said.

What should be in a Barangay, SK candidates’ ‘resume?’
(Inside Manila, Mar 7, 2018)

With the upcoming village elections, an election watchdog called the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to require Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections candidates to submit a résumé. 

According to National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), all candidates must submit a one-page resume “that would highlight their skills and capacities.” 

Namfrel added that the resume must explain what motivated the candidates to run for the post, what are the key challenges they see once elected. 

“The contests are generally seen as a fair territory where politicians, especially local officials, have an easy reach over. They have to establish a symbiotic relationship with the barangay and SK officials if under the present polity they are to serve the people well,” the group said in a position paper.

DILG backs Namfrel call for barangay, SK bets to submit resume
(SunStar, Mar 8, 2018)

The Department of Interior and Local Government supported the call of the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) to require all candidates in the 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to submit their respective resumés. 

DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero during the Open Government and Participatory Governance Regional Dialogue in Baguio City explained this measure will give voters the chance to review the qualifications of candidates. 


9,000 barangay execs on ‘narco-list’ (Manila Bulletin, Mar 12, 2018)

In what is expected to send shivers down the public’s spine, some 9,000 barangay chiefs are on President Duterte’s “narco-list,” prompting the government to warn the public to shun political aspirants with illegal-drug affiliation.

Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño made the revelation two months before the holding of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in May.

He said the President is hell bent on eliminating the country’s “narco-politicians’’ through legal means with the DILG conducting a thorough probe on the 9,000 barangay chiefs and other politicians with illegal drug links.

Diño, a former barangay captain, said officials linked to drugs will be removed from office.

Some barangay execs tag political foes, not drug suspects in Tokhang lists —DILG official
(GMA News, Mar 13, 2018)

Some barangay officials have taken to tagging their political foes as drug suspects in lists submitted to the Department of the Interior and Local Government, an official of the agency said.

"At this point in time puro basura ang ibinibigay sa aming impormasyon kasi ang nilalagay nila sa watchlist 'yung mga kalaban nila sa politika hindi 'yung mga totoong nasa watchlist ng droga," DILG Assistant Secretary Ricojudge Echiverri in a Senate hearing.

Comelec, Interior dep’t continue poll preps
(Manila Times, Mar 14, 2018)

Without a law ordering a postponement, it’s all systems go for the synchronized barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK or youth council) polls, as far as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) are concerned.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said on Tuesday the poll body was almost through with its preparations, including the printing of 59,578,346 ballots and accountable and non-accountable forms for the May 14, 2018 barangay and youth elections. Printing of 18 million more ballots is going on.

DILG to strictly enforce ban on guns, 'cop guards' in May 2018 polls
(GMA News, Mar 10, 2018)

The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Saturday said it will strictly implement the gun ban and the prohibition on the use of police bodyguards by candidates during the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in May.

In a statement, DILG Officer-in-Charge Secretary Eduardo Año said that the department will work closely with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in enforcing the prohibition, and that it already advised the Philippine National Police (PNP) to prepare the recall letters to their officers.

"The PNP should now start preparing the recall letters and send them before the election period starts," he said.

Año also said the DILG will go on alert against vote-buying and vote-selling activities.

NAMFREL articulates election law reforms (Manila Bulletin, Mar 11, 2018)

The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) believes the “none of the above” option should be included in the ballot form.

The poll watchdog group said voters should be provided this option for each elective position for when they believe that none of the candidates is deserving of their vote.

“If this option wins, another election should be called,” said Namfrel in their inputs on electoral reforms amid the move to amend the charter and shift to federalism.

The group also recommended requiring unopposed candidates to garner at least 50 percent of the votes.

Namfrel also recommended requiring the state through the Comission on Elections to lower the cost of candidacy so as to encourage wider participation among groups and individuals.

The group also pushed the introduction of a “run-off” polls for the presidential elections which means if none of the presidential candidates wins a majority of votes cast for the position, the first and second vote-getters would go into a run-off election.

Sotto informant claims 2016 poll results ‘altered’
(Inquirer, Mar 6, 2018)

Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III exposed on Tuesday the alleged irregularities during the 2016 elections that could be considered a “case of electoral sabotage” if proven true.

Sotto said a “concerned” and “impeccably reliable source” handed to him confidential information as to the irregularities that have allegedly “altered” the results of the last elections.

‘2016 poll fraud:’ Sotto reveals 4 suspicious queuing servers
(Inquirer, March 14, 2018)

Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III presented more proofs on Wednesday to back up his claims that the 2016 elections were tainted with irregularities.

In a privilege speech, Sotto disclosed the last-minute installation of “four queuing servers,” an issue that he said “really tainted the outcome of the elections.”

NAMFREL: No indication so far of fraud in 2016 polls
(GMA News, Mar 8, 2018)

The National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) is also conducting a probe on alleged irregularities during the May 2016 automated national elections, noting that there are no indications of fraud so far.

According to Sandra Aguinaldo's report in State of the Nation with Jessica Soho on Thursday, NAMFREL has been looking into the matter even before Senator Vicente Sotto III made the claims about supposed irregularities in a privilege speech this week.

Comelec asks for more info on Sotto’s expose on Smartmatic poll manipulation; Namfrel-Kontra Daya seek independent probe
(Politiko, Mar 7, 2018)

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will look into allegations of irregularities in the May 2016 national and local elections bared by Senator Vicente Sotto III, its spokesperson said Wednesday.

“The Commission understands the grave importance of this matter and will, itself, strive to determine the veracity of these claims,” said James Jimenez.

But election watchdog groups want “an independent group” to investigate Sotto’s allegations.



Despite Sotto speech, Comelec to still rely on Smartmatic
(Inquirer, Mar 14, 2018)

BACOLOD CITY—Vote-counting machines (VCMs) provided by an election technology firm that Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III wanted blacklisted were likely to be used in next year’s elections, according to a Commission on Elections (Comelec) official.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, in a press conference on Wednesday, said at least 92,000 VCMs from Smartmatic could be bought by the Comelec because it would be cheaper than to continue leasing them.

The Comelec, she said, planned to exercise its option to purchase the Smartmatic VCMs because it would be less expensive than renting or buying new machines “from somewhere else.”

Robredo backs 2016 election fraud inquiry (Gulf Times, Mar 9, 2018)

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo is in favour of probing allegations of poll fraud in the 2016 polls.

Robredo was referring to the claims made by Sen. Vicente Sotto in a privileged speech earlier this week that votes were transmitted to the servers ahead of election day and that these were accessed from as far as the United States.

Sotto has called on the Senate Committee on Election Reforms and People’s Participation to investigate the matter.



Manual recount in Bongbong-Leni poll protest rescheduled anew
(GMA News, Mar 14, 2018)

The manual recount that is part of former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s election protest against Vice President Leni Robredo has been postponed anew, lawyers for both camps confirmed on Wednesday.

Marcos' lawyer Vic Rodriguez said the recount, which was supposed to start on March 19, has been moved further to April 2.

Rodriguez said that according to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), the manual recount was moved again because "only 42 of the 50 revisors" had qualified or passed the required psychological exam.

Comelec to ask for gender quota on party candidates
(Inquirer, Mar 13, 2018)

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will ask the consultative committee, headed by retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, to consider putting a gender quota on candidates to be fielded by political parties.

Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, the poll body’s gender and development committee chair, said this would ensure gender equality in government.

“I hope that the constitutional amendments committee will add gender quota in the Constitution, as in some countries,” Guanzon said in her Twitter account, @commrguanzon.


Much has to be done to have more elected women
(Rappler, Mar 8, 2018)

On November 2, 2017, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released its Global Gender Gap Report for 2017. It is unfortunate that the Philippines slipped by 3 spots from number 7 to number 10, primarily due to its worsening performance on wage equality for similar work indicator, which dropped from 7th to 21st.

Despite the fall, the Philippines remains by far the most gender-equal country in Asia and 10th in the world out of the 144 countries surveyed. In terms of political empowerment, one of WEF’s 4 subindices, the Philippines was ranked 13th in the world and 2nd in Asia, beaten only by Bangladesh which ranked 7th.

How did we get there?

Appoint new commissioners to poll body, Duterte asked
(Manila Times, Mar 9, 2018)

SEN. Nancy Binay on Thursday appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to fill up the vacancies in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ensure smooth preparations for the May 14 barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) polls.

Comelec chairman Andres Bautista resigned last year amid the threat of the House of Representatives to impeach him over allegations of having unexplained wealth.

Commissioners Christian Robert Lim and Arthur Lim ended their stint with the commission on February 2, leaving the poll body with only four active members: Commissioners Sheriff Abas, Rowena Guanzon, Luie Tito Guia, and Al Parreño.



Aquino denies election offenses linked to Dengvaxia
(Rappler, Mar 15, 2018)

Former President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday, March 15, denied accusations that he committed election offenses linked to the government's dengue immunization program.

"Wala po akong ginawang mali (I did nothing wrong)," Aquino said in a press conference at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) press office on Thursday.
"Klaro naman pong harassment ang punto (It's clear that the point is harassment)," he added, saying that his accusers apparently do not seek justice but positions in government.

The former president said that the Omnibus Election Code itself would prove that he did not commit electioneering in relation to the mass immunization program, which used the controversial Dengvaxia dengue vaccine.

China Removes Presidential Term Limits, Enabling Xi Jinping To Rule Indefinitely (NPR, Mar 11, 2018)

President Xi Jinping of China is poised to rule the country indefinitely after Chinese lawmakers passed changes to the country's constitution abolishing presidential term limits.

The amendment was sure to pass the country's rubber-stamp legislature, the National People's Congress, which voted 2,958 in favor, two opposed and three abstaining.

Since Xi assumed leadership of China's Communist Party in 2012, he has rapidly consolidated power to levels not seen since the era of Mao Zedong. The constitutional change officially allows him to remain in office after the end of his second term in 2023.

How Xi Jinping Made His Power Grab: With Stealth, Speed and Guile
(New York Times, Mar 7, 2018)

BEIJING — Some 200 senior Communist Party officials gathered behind closed doors in January to take up a momentous political decision: whether to abolish presidential term limits and enable Xi Jinping to lead China for a generation.

In a two-day session in Beijing, they bowed to Mr. Xi’s wish to hold onto power indefinitely. But a bland communiqué issued afterward made no mention of the weighty decision, which the authorities then kept under wraps for more than five weeks.

That meeting of the party’s Central Committee was the culmination of months of secretive discussions that are only now coming to light — and show how Mr. Xi maneuvered with stealth, swiftness and guile to rewrite China’s Constitution.

Hong Kong's pro-democracy campaign endures election setback
(CNN, Mar 12, 2018)

Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp has endured a setback in crucial by-elections as fears grow that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous region.

Democrats won only two of four seats contested in the 70-seat Legislative Council and failed to regain their veto power in Sunday's vote, which was triggered when Beijing forced the disqualification of six lawmakers.

The election means that the pro-democracy camp now only holds 26 seats in the partially elected legislature, one short of being able to block bills.

"There was low voter turnout and the two pro-democracy candidates who won did so by a historically low margin," said Willy Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Indonesia and Malaysia have political contests coming — and religious votes could make the difference
(CNBC, Mar 13, 2018)

Malaysia and Indonesia have elections coming, and religious parties could play a central role in both.

Political Islam is poised to be a defining element of elections in both countries, which are economic leaders in a fast-growing region.

The two countries boast significant Muslim populations — Indonesia has the world's largest — and they have histories of pluralism and tolerance. But some political candidates are catering to fundamentalists in order to win over conservative voters, a move that could grant hard-liners greater influence down the line.

Nepalese lawmakers reelect female president
(Anadolu Agency, Mar 13, 2018)

Nepalese lawmakers on Tuesday reelected Bidhya Devi Bhandari as the country’s president, three months after the parliamentary elections were held in which a communist alliance won the largest number of seats.

Bidhya Devi Bhandari, fielded by the ruling Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) party, won the presidential election after securing 39,275 votes, according to the Election Commission.

Bhandari is returning to the top job for the second time after she became the country’s first female president in October 2015.

Sierra Leone Makes History With First Ever Blockchain Presidential Vote (Inverse, Mar 9, 2016)

The first ever blockchain-verified election took place in Sierra Leone on Wednesday. Swiss-based blockchain startup Agora oversaw the voting process, logging each paper ballot cast in Sierra Leone’s most populous region into a blockchain network.

Many believe blockchain technology could go a long way in creating a secure platform for digital elections, because it creates an unassailable ledger of transactions. The blockchain works by utilizing a distributed network of connected computers — all transactions are stored in a shared public record, so there is no main hub vulnerable to attack. In a blockchain election, each transaction represents one vote, and because a blockchain is tamper-proof, election results would perfectly reflect the vote without fear of hacking or fraud.

NAMFREL NEWS is a bi-monthly curated package of the most significant Philippine election-related news, distributed by the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) to its network.
National Citizens' Movement For Free Elections (NAMFREL)
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