Saturday, April 11, 2009

‘Early voting’ to curb election-related violence -- Gordon

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today reiterated his call for an "early voting" especially in 181 areas tagged as consistent election hotspots in the country in order to avert a recurrence of election-related violence and killings.


Gordon made the call as he noted a resurgence of political killings in areas the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) considered to be "consistent election hotspots" since 2001.


"Although election is still several months away, there has been a rise in killings and violence which authorities widely believed to be politically motivated in areas considered as consistent election hotspots," he said. 


"The conduct of an early or advanced voting would not only allow increased participation among Filipino electorate but would also help our police and election authorities secure our people from election-related violence," he said.


Last month, a village councilor was killed, and two others, including a barangay chairman, were injured in an attack in Kidapawan, Sultan Kudarat.  Authorities believed the attack was politically motivated.


In Davao alone, police records report about 221 killings in the 10 months from January to October last year, boosting the country's reputation for the most number of murders by the 2009 Guinness Book of World Record.


Election hotspots are categorized as election areas of concern (EAC) and election areas of immediate concern (EIAC).


EAIC are towns, cities or municipalities where election-related violence are highly expected to occur, while EAC are areas where election-related violence are likely to occur or where election-related offenses were committed during the previous elections.


Official figures account for 181 consistent election hotspots in the country during the 2001, 2004 and 2007 elections. Provinces with the most number of towns classified as either EAC or EAIC include Lanao del Sur (with 20 towns), Masbate (18), Nueva Ecija (17), Cagayan (16), and Abra (10), among others.


"If we conduct early elections in these towns, the Comelec and the PNP can concentrate on securing these areas so as to avert politically-motivated crimes and violence. When the people know they are secured, they would have the confidence to go out and cast their votes," Gordon said.


Gordon, author of the amended Automated Election System Law, has earlier filed Senate Bill 2972 which seeks to allow for the practice of early voting in polls, by which voters can cast their votes on a single or series of days prior to an election day.


He explained that early voting would also encourage active participation among overseas Filipino workers, businessmen who may have scheduled trips abroad, people who may be working on elections day, and people who live in remote places to vote before the official elections day in May 2010.


"This (early-voting) is not exactly an undiscovered science. After all, Americans showed it very, very stoutly in the last elections. One good thing in the last ( US ) elections is in the discovery of people that their votes will count and that is why there was a huge turn-out," Gordon said.


In the last U.S. presidential election, early voting reportedly accounted for about one-third (or more than 30 percent) of the votes cast in the presidential race, compared with 14 percent in 2000. (30)

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