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The en banc decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to scrap mall voting for the May 9, 2016 elections raises a lot of question specifically because such decision was arrived at April 26 and announced the following day or less than two weeks before election day.
Setting the wisdom of mall voting aside, the biggest questions are actually about the timing of and reason for the decision.
If we analyze the statement of Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, we really cannot decipher a clear reason for the decision. He regretfully announced that three Commissioners changed their mind about the matter. The Comelec approved mall voting with an en banc vote of six Commissioner affirming and only one dissenting. As three Commissioners changed their mind, the majority of four are now against.
It was not even clear why the matter was subjected to another vote. Chairman Bautista said that the plan was scrapped because the law requires the transfer for precincts 45 days before the elections. There is no question about the need to follow what the law requires but is this really the reason?
If Comelec will admit that this is indeed the reason for the decision, more questions will have to be answered.
The Comelec decided in favor of mall voting last year. Is Comelec admitting that it has not done the transfer of the concerned precincts up until the said decision to scrap mall voting was made? If it indeed failed to do what needed to be done, it has a lot of explaining to do.
Chairman Bautista “hinted” that mall voting was ready to be implemented as he said that concerned voters were already informed and that mall owners were supportive of the mall voting decision of the Commission. So, what is really the story here?
If Comelec has not satisfied the 45-day requirement of the law for the transfer of polling precincts, the three Commissioners who voted to continue with mall voting has some explaining to do as well. Why would they insist on doing something that is clearly in violation of what the law requires?
Again, this is not a question of whether mall voting should be allowed or not. This is just a question of the “close-to-the-finish-line” decision of Comelec to change election arrangements. We deserve straight and clear answers from the Comelec.