THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) should finish its investigation of a spoiled ballot given to a Filipino voter in Singapore last week before the May 9 elections or risk losing its credibility, according to political analysts.
“The issue of the alleged pre-shaded ballot incident in Singapore needs to be resolved by the Comelec immediately, otherwise, this incident will put it in a bad light,” Marlon M. Villarin, a political science professor from the University of Santo Tomas, said in a Viber message at the weekend. “Otherwise, the integrity of the election results will be tarnished.”
A Facebook post of a Filipino based in Singapore claiming she had received a pre-shaded ballot went viral last week.
The Philippine Embassy in Singapore said it was aware of the spoiled ballot inadvertently given to a voter during Monday’s election, which it called an “isolated incident.”
“This report is alarming and should be seriously attended to by Comelec,” Jean Encinas-Franco, a political science professor from the University of the Philippines, (UP) said in a Facebook Messenger chat.
“Elections must not only be implemented but must be perceived as legitimate by the electorate and reports such as this should be addressed to ensure the public that Comelec has zero-tolerance for electoral fraud,” she added.
Election Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia said they were investigating the incident.
“We should really investigate this incident as this should not happen again and find out why this spoiled ballot was given to the voter,” he told CNN Philippines last week.
The ballot, he added, should have been segregated and put in an envelope for spoiled ballots “so we will definitely get that answer within the next few days.”
Cleo Anne A. Calimbahin, an associate professor at De La Salle University, said human error could have caused the incident.
“Our embassy officials are deputized to manage overseas automated voting even as they continue to attend to their other duties,” she said in an e-mail. “I have observed overseas automated voting in other countries and human error is possible given how stretched the manpower is in the embassies.”
Mr. Garcia earlier said electoral board members abroad should be given the benefit of the doubt because of how tiring their duties can be.
Last week, Davao City Mayor and vice-presidential bet Sara Duterte-Carpio urged Comelec to probe similar allegations of electoral irregularities in Dubai and Singapore. She said reports of pre-shaded ballots were “grossly disconcerting.”
“Even if the embassy said this was a mistake and an isolated incident, why it happened and how it was remedied must be explained,” Maria Ela L. Atienza, who also teaches political science at UP, said in a Viber message.
“Government officials and personnel should make sure to carry out the process properly and of course, all voters should be vigilant and report any irregularities they see with proper evidence.”
“The Movement Against Disinformation calls on Comelec and all government offices concerned not just to warn people against spreading fake news but more importantly, to investigate these incidents fully and diligently,” the group said in a statement.
“All public institutions are reminded that its exclusive master is the sovereign people, and it should act solely in accordance with the best interests of public service,” it added.
Comelec last week called the incident in Singapore “fake news” and warned the public against spreading false information.
In Sweden, at least three Filipino voters got two ballots from the Philippine Embassy there.
“Regardless of whether the incidents are isolated, or worse, deliberate occurrences, the Comelec must faithfully and willingly carry out its mandate of guarding the sanctity of the ballot,” the group said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan