COMPARED TO neighboring Manila, Pasay City’s number of voters is quite small. Pasay City’s 392,869 residents (as of the 2010 census) — of which 247,369 are registered voters — are distributed across 201 barangays split into two districts. District 1 comprises 94 barangays with 127,082 voters, while District 2 has 107 barangays and 120,287 voters.
This might be the reason why the election officers heading the Comelec’s two districts offices in the city say that they have enough manpower to handle the upcoming May 13, 2013 midterm elections. But Feliciano Aringay, Election Officer for District 1, prefers to look at his staff complement this way: “We cannot equate the work with the number of registered voters. It has something to do with what are the functions we need to perform.”
Pasay City Comelec’s 1st District has a total of 18 personnel: an election officer, six election assistants plus 11 casual/contractual employees. The smaller 2nd District, meanwhile, has 17 employees, six of them permanent and 11 casual/contractual. In addition, the 2nd District has extra personnel undergoing an on-the-job-training program in their office.
With only a few weeks remaining before the elections, the Pasay City Comelec personnel — like their colleagues elsewhere in the metro and the rest of the country — are feeling the pressure of the pre-election tasks that they need to accomplish, such as training the teachers and supervisors who will serve as the Board of Election Inspectors on election day.
Time pressure aside, the two Comelec offices in Pasay City seem to share the same woes as their counterparts in the NCR: inadequate funding and office supplies.
On tight budget
Both Aringay and his District 2 counterpart, Frances Aguindadao, say that the Comelec main office provides them a regular budget, but both say they do not have any idea just how much is allotted for their offices. In most cases, Aringay explains, the budget for certain activities is coursed through the Comelec regional office. Both Districts 1 and 2 have also received a mobilization fund from the Comelec head office. That fund is supposed to last them until the end of the election period. The head office also provides a separate budget for voters’ information such as leaflets.
Money is tight in the field offices most days, but especially so during election season. Aringay says there are times when he and his staff have had to dip into their own pockets just so they could implement election-related activities. But Aringay refuses to see this as a problem, calling it “a challenge” instead. Says Aringay: “Of course, we have a function to perform and we do not want budget to reflect our performance.”
Aside from cash, the Comelec main office provides office supplies to the two district offices in Pasay every six months. Aguindadao says, however, that these do not suffice, given the amount of paper work that the district offices have to complete. That’s why Aguindadao says the election officer should be resourceful and find a way to get the job done, such as by going to the neighboring office to ask for a ream of bond paper, or by asking the city government for additional supplies.
In this aspect, the Comelec field offices in Pasay City seem to be better off than their counterparts elsewhere. Besides footing the electric bills, the city government appears to provide the local Comelec not only with a spacious office, but also adequate office equipment and furniture.
The building that the two Comelec field offices in Pasay City occupy used to be a one-story structure located just outside the city hall. The city government repaired it last December when the local Comelec submitted a request for renovation, which was consequently approved. Aside from adding an additional floor, the file room in the District 2 office was also improved. Comelec Districts 1 and 2 now occupy a 100-square meter office each, which are equipped with air conditioning units, electric fans, and television sets. The renovation budget, however, was not enough to cover improvements on the comfort room and the small pantry for the staff, Aguindadao says.
Then again, when Aguindadao submitted a request to the city government in 2011, District 2 did receive a photocopier machine, a new conference table, and a new set of office chairs — after two years. It took that long for her request to be approved because of several procedures and requirements. “If you wish to request for something,” observes Aguindadao, “you’ll have to wait for the next budget hearing.”
That could mean that it may take a while before the glass door at the entrance to the District 1 office will be repaired. The door has become detached from its hinges, leaving the office wide open to intruders. Aringay says he is going to submit a request to the city government to have the door fixed, but is not about to hold his breath over seeing a quick response. “We want it to be fixed right away,” he says. “Of course we have to comply with the requirements that they would require of us.” — PCIJ, May 2013