The Comelec in NCR: Reality bites

IT’S THE homestretch to the May 13, 2013 midterm elections, and the field personnel of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) are now feeling the pressure of the last of its pre-election preparations. These include the final testing and sealing (FTS) of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, and coordinating and training the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) who will mainly administer matters on election day. These tasks go alongside their continuing responsibility to instruct voters on what should be done before, during, and after the elections; monitor campaign activities; and enforce campaigning and campaign finance rules.

Recently, a team of PCIJ fellows did a series that revealed how, in 39 Comelec field offices in Luzon and the Visayas, Comelec field personnel suffer from poor working conditions and a shortage in basic resources – personnel, funds, office space, supplies and equipment – that prevent them from fully performing their duties in an effective and efficient manner.

Intending to do a follow-up to that report, six PCIJ interns from April 22 to 29 visited 17 Comelec district offices in five cities in the National Capital Region or NCR: Manila (six district offices), Quezon City (six district offices), Pasay City (two district offices), Makati City (two district offices), and Marikina City (one office covering the city’s two districts). They found that unlike their counterparts in the regions, the Comelec field offices in the NCR do not seem to suffer from a shortage of manpower.

Unfortunately, though, that’s the only difference between the Commission’s field offices in Metro Manila and those in the regions. Indeed, despite their proximity to the head office, most Comelec field offices in the NCR likewise suffer from a shortage of funding and supplies, lack of office space, and poor working conditions. This is rather unexpected for the poll body’s offices located in the country’s most densely populated region, which serves as the government, financial, commercial, and educational center and from where many the top officials of the land are propelled into office.