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ELECTION LAWS
OF THE PHILIPPINES
Full Text

  This web page contains the full text of
ACCREDITATION OF CITIZENS' ARM
COMELEC RESOLUTION ON NAMFREL'S AND NPC'S PETITIONS FOR ACCREDITATION AS CITIZENS' ARM OF THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS TO CONDUCT AN OPERATION QUICK COUNT (OQC) IN CONNECTION WITH THE ELECTIONS ON MAY 14, 2001.
 
Click here for full text of:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
ACCREDITATION OF PPCRV AS CITIZENS' ARM
C OMELEC RESOLUTION ON PPCRV'S PETITION FOR ACCREDITATION AS CITIZENS' ARM OF THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS TO PERFORM VOTER'S EDUCATION AND POLL WATCHING FUNCTIONS IN CONNECTION WITH THE ELECTIONS ON MAY 14, 2001.
COMELEC RESOLUTION
COMELEC RESOLUTION ON NAMFREL'S AND NPC'S PETITIONS FOR ACCREDITATION AS CITIZENS' ARM OF THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS TO CONDUCT AN OPERATION QUICK COUNT (OQC) IN CONNECTION WITH THE ELECTIONS ON MAY 14, 2001.
 
 
Republic of the Philippines
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS
Manila
EN BANC

 

In the Matter of the Petition for
Accreditation as Citizens’ Arm of
the Commission On Elections to
Conduct an Operation Quick
Count (OQC) in Connection with
the Elections on May 14, 2001.
 
NATIONAL CITIZENS’ MOVEMENT
FOR FREE ELECTIONS
(NAMFREL),                                 SPP NO. 00-040
                    Petitioner.
 
x ------------------------------------------------------------- x
 
 
Petition for Accreditation as Citizens’ Arm
of the Commission on Elections to
Conduct Poll Watch and Operation Quick
Count in the Coming May 14, 2001 elections
 
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB OF THE
PHILIPPINES,                               SPP NO. 01-011
                  Petitioner.
 
x ----------------------------------------------------------- x
 
 

Promulgated:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
05 April 2001
 
RESOLUTION
 
SADAIN, M.K., Commissioner:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
 
Before Us are two petitions for accreditation as citizens’ arm of the Commission on Elections, and for the conduct of an "Operation Quick Count" separately filed by the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC), which we are jointly deciding.

Position of NAMFREL:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Petitioner NAMFREL seeks accreditation for the following purposes:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

"a) Organize, manage, operate, and be accountable for the Operation Quick Count (OQC), including the reporting of the results obtained from:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    i.  Fourth copy of the election returns generated by the counting machines for each precinct in areas where the counting machines will be used per Sec. 6, R.A. 8436;
     
    ii.  Sixth copy of the manually prepared election return for each precinct in areas where the election returns will be manually accomplished per R.A. 8173;
     
    iii.  Fourth copy of the certificates of canvass at the municipal/city, district and provincial levels per Sec. 22 of R.A. 8436; and
     
    iv.  Copy of the certificate of canvass for senators by the National Board of Canvassers for Senators;
duly authenticated by the board of elections inspectors, the respective board of canvassers and by the National Board of Canvassers for Senators.

"b) Coordinate the activities of all NGOs and private organizations that are interested in involving themselves in the elections for the purpose of ensuring free, clean, honest and fair conduct of the elections.

"c) Deploy NAMFREL Bantay ng Bayan volunteers who may assist in the operations in the different polling places and who may also provide assistance to voters on Election Day.

"d) Assist the Commission by monitoring the conduct of the election and by being made a member of the Task Force organized by the Commission for the purpose." [Par. 1, NAMFREL’s Petition]

NAMFREL likewise seeks to complement its poll watching efforts by performing as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    "a) ensuring the indelibility or potency of the indelible ink;

    "b) ensuring the proper application of the indelible ink by the BEI on the voter at the precinct level; and

    "c) ensuring that the COMELEC allows access of NAMFREL volunteers inside the precincts to ascertain that the proper application of indelible ink is carried out." [Par.2, NAMFREL’s Petition]

NAMFREL manifests that it is "a broad based aggrupation of volunteers from civic, youth, professional, educational, labor, religious and other sectors," and "has the capability to undertake the Operation Quick Count" as proven by its track record in past elections, dating as far back as the Batasang Pambansa 1984 elections and as recently as the recall elections in Pasay City and Lucena City on April 15, 2000 and May 12, 2000, respectively. [1]

It avers that:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    a.  it shall be "strictly non-partisan and impartial during the election and election periods";
     
    b.  it shall undertake "to police its rank and prevent infiltration by persons or groups of persons who may, directly or indirectly, destroy its character of non-partisanship and impartiality";
     
    c.  it shall commit "to submit itself to the direct and immediate control and supervision, and comply with the orders, of the Commission in the performance of its functions and activities provided by law, and such other functions and activities which the Commission may assign";
     
    d.  it is not supported by or under the influence of any foreign government or any of its agencies or instrumentalities, or any foreigner, whether natural or juridical person; and
     
    e.  it "shall not solicit or receive, directly or indirectly, any contribution or aid of whatever form or nature" from the same above-mentioned entities. [2]
Position of the National Press Club:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

For its part, NPC seeks accreditation as a citizens’ arm of the Commission for the following purposes:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    "a) Assist the COMELEC in the dissemination of information to educate and fully inform the public about election laws, procedures, decisions, and other matters relative to the work and duties of the Commission and the necessity of clean, free, orderly and honest electoral process.

    "b) Poll watching up to the precinct level, to ensure free, honest and orderly election.

    "c) Organize, manage, operate and be accountable for the Operation Quick Count (OQC), including the reporting of results obtained from the following duly authenticated election results, as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
     
    i.  Fourth copy of the election returns generated by the counting machines for each precinct in areas where counting machines will be used, per Sec. 6 of R.A. 8436.
     
    ii.  Sixth copy of the manually prepared election return for each precinct in areas where election returns will be manually accomplished, per R.A. 8173.
     
    iii.  Fourth copy of the certificates of canvass at the municipal/city, district and provincial levels, per Sec. 22 of R.A. 8436; and
     
    iv.  Copy of the certificate of canvass for senators by the National Board of Canvassers for Senators;

"d) Deploy NPC volunteers who may assist in the operations in the different polling places and who may also provide assistance to voters on Election Day.

"e) Assist the Commission by monitoring the conduct of the election and by being made a member of the Task Force organized by the Commission for this purpose." [3]

In the same manner as NAMFREL, NPC seeks "to complement poll watching efforts by assisting the Commission to ensure the indelibility or potency of the indelible ink and ascertain the proper application of the indelible ink." [4] Likewise, NPC commits itself to non-partisanship, absence of foreign support and influence, and supervision and control by the COMELEC.

The Facts of the Case:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The Commission En Banc heard NAMFREL’s petition on November 14, 2000; February 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28, 2001; and March 1, 2001; while that of NPC was heard on February 13, 16 and 23, 2001; and March 1, 2001.  Both petitioners, having complied with the jurisdictional requirements, presented the following to substantiate their allegations:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

For NAMFREL:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    Exhibit "A" - Petition for Accreditation of NAMFREL.

    Exhibit "B" - Order of the Commission dated October 27, 2000.

    Exhibit "C" - Affidavit of Publication executed by Mr. Oscar R. Castillo of the
    People’s Tonight dated October 31, 2000.

    Exhibit "D" - Issue of the newspaper itself, the People’s Tonight dated November 1, 2000.

    Exhibit "D-1" - Page 17 of the People’s Tonight dated November 1, 2000.

    Exhibit "D-2" - Bracketed portion of the published Order and Petition.

    Exhibit "E" - List of NAMFREL participating organizations.

    Exhibit "F" - List of NCR and provincial Chairpersons of NAMFREL.

    Exhibit "G" - General Operation Quick Count flow chart during the 1998 elections.

In addition, NAMFREL submitted a list of its participating organizations, as well as reports on the April 15, 2000 Pasay City Mayoralty Recall Election, April 15, 2000 Mercedes, Camarines Norte Mayoralty Recall Election, and May 12, 2000 Lucena City Mayoralty Recall Election in a Manifestation dated November 27, 2000.

For NPC:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    Exhibit "A" - The Petition for Accreditation.

    Exhibit "B" - The Order of the Honorable Commission dated February 13, 2001.

    Exhibit "C" - The published petition for accreditation.

    Exhibit "C-1" - The Affidavit of Publication.

    Exhibit "D" - Secretary’s Certificate of the meeting on January 31, 2001 by the NPC Board.

    Exhibit "E" - Copy of NPC Election Watch 2001.

    Exhibit "F" - Note Page from the Power Point Slide presentation.

    Exhibit "G" - Certificate of Registration of NPC with the SEC.

    Exhibit "G-1" - The Amended Certificate of Incorporation.

    Exhibit "G-2" - The Certificate itself.

    Exhibit "H" - Letter of Intent to Participate of Radio Veritas.

    Exhibit "I" - Letter of Intent of Eagle Broadcasting Corporation.

    Exhibit "J" - Letter of Intent of ALIW Broadcasting Corporation.

    Exhibit "K" - Letter of Intent of Radio Mindanao Network.

    Exhibit "L" - Letter of Intent of Manila Bulletin.

    Exhibit "M" - Letter of Intent of DWXI, Delta Broadcasting System.

    Exhibit "N" - List of Directors and Executive Officers (2000-2001) Of the NPC.

    Exhibits "O" & "O-1" to "O-51" - Roster of Members of the NPC as of April 19, 2000.

During the hearing of February 16, 2001, NPC presented projector slides to show how its technical management consultancy group Policy Strategy Advocacy Group (POLISTRAT) will conduct the operation quick count.

On February 14, 2001, an Opposition was filed against NAMFREL’s petition by a certain Mr. Carlos G. Leongson, a registered voter of Pasay City, raising the following points:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

"3. That it is of record that the Petitioner (NAMFREL) has not strictly remained non-partisan and impartial during the past elections, as shown by the fact that during the Presidential snap election of 1986, the Petitioner was accredited as a Citizens’ arm of the Commission on Election;

"4. That immediately upon the assumption to office of then President Corazon C. Aquino, the National Chairman of NAMFREL, JOSE S. CONCEPCION, JR. was appointed to the position of Secretary of Trade and Industry;

"5. That the appointment was accepted by MR. JOSE S. COPCEPCION, JR. despite the fact that such appointment was not only improper, it was immoral, unethical and contrary to the mandate of the Petitioner as a non-partisan and impartial arm of the Commission on Election because the appointment partook the nature of a concession, or worse as a reward to the Petitioner; and

"6. That if the Petitioner is accredited as a Citizens’ arm of the Commission on Election to conduct Operation Quick Count, there is no guaranty that the officers of the Petitioner will not use again the same as a jumping board for them to get some juicy position in the government and therefore, these officers cannot assure the public that the Petitioner will remain impartial and non-partisan during the conduct of the election in the year 2001 more specifically in the conduct of the operation quick count."

On February 26, 2001, oppositor Leongson submitted an Affidavit with his attached written position on why NAMFREL should not be accredited by the COMELEC. In sum, the oppositor avers that NAMFREL is partisan and partial, draws its funds from "dubious" sources, and generally comes up with an "inaccurate quick count." The said oppositor likewise belies the legal basis for NAMFREL’s "Quick Count" saying that what is required is an "unofficial count – not necessarily quick but advance (sic) and accurate." Further, he alleges that NAMFREL’s plea for participation in the indelible ink activity has no basis in law and in fact, "because even an ordinary civic organization can suggest directly to the COMELEC the use of such indelible ink without need of prior accreditation." [5]

Former Senator Rene Espina also filed a Motion for Leave as Amicus Curiae on February 20, 2001, alleging among others, that:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

"1. He was a candidate for senator under the Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD) during the 1987 national elections;

"2. He has personal knowledge of the "dagdag-bawas" system employed by some members of the NAMFREL during the 1987 elections in its Operation Quick Count (OQC) at the La Salle Greenhills, which was the national headquarters of the NAMFREL OQC at that time;

"3. He was a victim of such 'dagdag-bawas' scheme employed by some NAMFREL members;

"4. As a member of the GAD, he conducted a study and investigation of NAMFREL OQC which discovered and revealed the mechanics and implementation of the 'dagdag-bawas' system employed by some of its members."

The substance of the motion being in the nature of an objection to NAMFREL’s accreditation, the Commission En Banc decided to allow Espina to participate as an oppositor.

Mr. Leongson and Mr. Espina were heard by the Commission, during which hearings, Mr. Espina presented the GAD 1987 elections study, and particularly stressed that he is not against NAMFREL as an organization, but is merely opposed to the continued stay and administration of its officials (led by Mr. Concepcion) whom he alleged to be parties to electoral fraud. Mr. Espina repeatedly referred to the existence of a computer diskette programmed by NAMFREL technical experts to automatically add ten thousand (10,000) votes to the 1987 senatorial candidates of then President Aquino, but failed to produce this diskette despite ample opportunity given to him to present the same. In addition, Mr. Espina testified that during the 1986 Snap Presidential Elections, he requested Mr. Concepcion to stop the NAMFREL Count before the Ilocos votes, with then President Ferdinand Marcos leading, could be considered in the count.

It must be noted at this juncture that NAMFREL’s petition was likewise marked by the filing of a Motion to Inhibit on January 29, 2001 and a Motion to Disqualify on February 19, 2001 against the Hon. Commissioner Luzviminda G. Tancangco. Be that as it may, the same has been rendered moot and academic after the disputed Position Paper of the Hon. Commissioner Tancangco and NAMFREL’s Comment to said Position Paper have both been withdrawn from the records. Moreover, the issue has been rendered sub judice by NAMFREL’s filing before the Honorable Supreme Court of a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition docketed as G. R. No. 147030.

Issues:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The issues to be decided in these consolidated petitions are:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    Whether or not petitioners NAMFREL and NPC should be accredited as citizens’ arm of the Commission on Elections for the May 14, 2001 National and Local Elections; and who between petitioners NAMFREL and NPC should be authorized to conduct an official count in the said elections.
The Ruling:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Based on the records and evidence presented, both NAMFREL and NPC shall be accredited as citizens’ arms of the Commission in the coming May 14, 2001 Local and National Elections, and authorized to conduct an official count.

Petitioners are hereby enjoined to conduct separate unofficial counts in the coming elections, on the basis of the election returns in the case of NAMFREL and of the certificates of votes in the case of the NPC. The final tabulation of both parties in such separate unofficial counts should, if possible, register substantially the same figures following the procedural guidelines set forth in this resolution.

The power of the Commission on Elections to accredit citizens’ arms is enshrined in the Constitution, as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    "Sec. 2. The Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and functions:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    x x x

    "(5) Register, after sufficient publication, political parties, organizations, or coalitions which, in addition to other requirements must present their platform or program of government; and accredit citizens’ arms of the Commission on Elections. Religious denominations and sects shall not be registered. Those who seek to achieve their goals through violence or unlawful means, or refuse to uphold and adhere to this Constitution, or which are supported by any foreign government shall likewise be refused registration." [6] [Underscoring supplied]

The rationale for accreditation of citizens’ arm is the promotion and enhancement of the constitutional task of the COMELEC to ensure free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections. Toward this end, B.P. Blg. 881, otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code, provides:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    "Sec. 52. Powers and functions of the Commission on Elections. In addition to the powers and functions conferred upon it by the Constitution, the Commission shall have exclusive charge of the enforcement and administration of all laws relative to the conduct of elections for the purpose of ensuring free, orderly and honest elections, and shall:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    x x x

    (k) Enlist non-partisan groups or organizations of citizens from the civic, youth, professional, educational, business or labor sectors known for their probity, impartiality and integrity with the membership and capability to undertake a coordinated operation and activity to assist it in the implementation of the provisions of this Code and the resolutions, orders and instructions of the Commission for the purpose of ensuring free, orderly and honest elections in any constituency. Such groups or organizations shall function under the direct and immediate control and supervision of the Commission " [Underscoring supplied]

The Code specifies the duties which accredited citizens’ arms must perform for the COMELEC. Before election day, they shall assist the COMELEC in undertaking information campaigns, waging voters’ registration drives, cleansing voters’ lists, and reporting to the Commission violations in the conduct of the political campaign, election propaganda and electoral expenditures. [7] On election day, accredited citizens’ arms shall exhort all registered voters to cast their votes, nominate watchers for each polling place and place of canvass, report to police authorities all instances of terrorism, intimidation of voters and other similar attempts to frustrate the free and orderly casting of votes, and perform other functions as may be entrusted to such group or organization by the Commission. [8]

A cursory scan of the above provisions will reveal that conducting a "quick count" is not even among the functions and duties that the Omnibus Election Code gives an accredited citizens’ arm. In fact, nowhere in any election law is a "quick count" mentioned. The laws referring to this matter, Republic Act No. 8045 and Republic Act No. 8173, speak of an "unofficial count", thus:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    "Section 1 [R.A. 8045] Section 27 of Republic Act No. 7166 is hereby amended to read as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
     
      "Sec. 27. Number of Copies of Election Returns and Their Distribution. The board of election inspectors shall prepare in handwriting, the election returns in their respective polling places, in the number of copies herein provided and in the form to be prescribed and provided by the Commission.

      "The copies of the election returns shall be distributed as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

     
        "a) In the election of President, Vice President, Senators and Members of the House of Representatives:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

        x x x

        "6) The sixth copy to a citizens’ arm authorized by the Commission to conduct an unofficial count: Provided, however, That the accreditation of the citizens’ arm shall be subject to the provisions of Section 52 (k) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881: Provided, further, That such citizens’ arm previously authorized by the Commission before the effectivity of this Act shall not be qualified for accreditation," [underscoring supplied; and with a similar separate provision for b) local officials] and;

    "Section 1 [R.A. No. 8173] Section 27 of Republic Act No. 7166, as amended by Republic Act No. 8045 is hereby further amended to read as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
     

      "Sec. 27. Number of Copies of Election Returns and Their Distribution The board of election inspectors shall prepare in handwriting the election returns in their respective polling places, in the number of copies herein provided and in the form to be prescribed and provided by the Commission.

      "The copies of the election returns shall be distributed as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

     
        "a) In the election of President, Vice President, Senators and Members of the House of Representatives:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
     
        x x x

        "6) The sixth copy, to a citizens’ arm authorized by the Commission to conduct an unofficial count: Provided, however, That the accreditation of the citizens’ arm shall be subject to the provisions of Section 52 (k) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881;" [Underscoring supplied; and with a similar separate provision for a) local officials]

    Refraining from calling the unofficial count a "quick count" is well-deserved because such a count based only on election returns derived from the precincts by representing itself as "quick," will necessarily and unfairly imply that the COMELEC count, which, in accordance with law, has to officially go through municipal/city, and/or provincial and national canvass, and subjected to protests and other procedural recourse by candidates, is slow. To be more accurate, such an unofficial count should be approximately labeled as an "advance unofficial count based on election returns."

The foregoing provisions of law likewise show that accreditation is both discretionary and desirable on the part of the Commission, which when granted, constitutes a privilege and a duty rather than a right, to be responsibly exercised by the accredited citizens’ arm. As such, both the law and COMELEC rules provide the guideposts by which the COMELEC may judiciously exercise this discretion and lessen its workload through the expediency of authorizing assistance by citizens’ arm through accreditation. This much can also be discerned from Rule 33, Section 1 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, which provides:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
    "Section 1. Who may be accredited as citizens’ arm of the Commission. Any bona fide non partisan group, association or organization from the civic, youth, professional, educational, business or labor sectors with identifiable leadership, membership and structure, and with demonstrated capacity to promote the public interest and assist the Commission in the performance of its functions and activities as mandated by the Constitution and by law, may be accredited as citizens’ arms of the Commission." [Underscoring supplied]
Simply stated, the main purpose of accreditation is to have a group of concerned and non-partisan citizens assisting the Commission in the performance of its mandate. It is not, and has never been, the intent of the law to accredit citizens’ arms to serve as watchdogs of the COMELEC as an institution, as if the COMELEC is, from the very start, suspect in the commission of election fraud. Any such accredited citizens’ arm does not acquire the prerogative to act as a watchdog to the COMELEC, for to even entertain such an idea is to negate and demolish the constitutional provisions that hail the independence of the COMELEC as a constitutional body.

For this reason, the COMELEC is committed to discharge its mandate, powers and functions to the best of its ability, with integrity and honesty. In the exercise of its power to accredit citizens’ arms, it likewise wields "direct and immediate control and supervision" over such accredited groups as provided for in Sec. 52 (k) of the Omnibus Election Code.

On the basis of the testimonial and documentary evidence presented by both petitioners, this Commission finds their respective petitions for accreditation as citizens’ arm meritorious, and therefore, accredits them to do the following functions and duties of accredited citizens’ arms, as provided in Section 52 of the Omnibus Election Code, to wit:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    "A. Before Election Day:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
      "1. Undertake an information campaign on salient features of this Code and help in the dissemination of the orders, decisions and resolutions of the Commission relative to the forthcoming election.

      "2. (If so warranted) wage a registration drive in their respective areas so that all citizens of voting age, not otherwise disqualified by law may be registered.

      "3. (If so warranted) help cleanse the list of voters of illegal registrants, conduct house-to-house canvass if necessary, and take appropriate legal steps toward this end.

      "4. Report to the Commission violations of the provisions of this Code on the conduct of the political campaign, election propaganda and electoral expenditures.

    "B. On Election Day:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

      "1. Exhort all registered voters in their respective areas to go to their polling places and cast their votes.

      "2. Nominate one watcher for accreditation in each polling place and each place of canvass who shall have the same duties, functions and rights as the other watchers of political parties and candidates. Members or units of any citizen group or organization so designated by the Commission except its lone duly accredited watcher, shall not be allowed to enter any polling place except to vote, and shall, if they so desire, stay in an area at least fifty meters away from the polling place.

      "3. Report to the peace authorities and other appropriate agencies all instances of terrorism, intimidation of voters, and other similar attempts to frustrate the free and orderly casting of votes.

      "4. Perform such other functions as may be entrusted to such group or organization by the Commission."

Petitioners should, however, be forewarned that accreditation under the law, may be revoked by the COMELEC upon notice and hearing, whenever by their actuations, any of the accredited petitioners shows partiality to any political party or candidate, or performs acts in excess or in contravention of the functions and duties herein provided and such others which may be granted by the Commission. [9]

The critical issue of authorizing any of the petitioners to conduct an unofficial count must be resolved by scrutinizing and comparing the advantages and disadvantages of petitioners’ over-all unofficial count system in relation to the safeguards which the Commission En Banc deems necessary to ensure accuracy, transparency and impartiality in the unofficial count.

The procedural safeguards and guidelines that a COMELEC citizens’ arm authorized to conduct an advance unofficial count must observe are as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    1.  Every partial release of the unofficial count shall be fully supported by its sources in terms of the precincts in barangay/city or municipality and province, and the number of those who actually voted in the precincts covered.
     
    2.  A verification system shall be observed prior to the transmittal of the periodic results to the National Consolidation Center, and their public dissemination.
     
    3.  There shall be a built-in system for counter checking election results data as reflected in the Election Returns (ERs) and Certificates of Votes (CoVs) and in the handling of discrepancies between them, if any. In case of discrepancies between the ERs and CoVs brought about by official protests from contending candidates, the data shall be placed in a pending file and shall not be included in the transmitted partial unofficial count until both are reconciled or the discrepancies resolved.
     
    4.  The active participation of the accredited citizens’ arms at the municipal/city canvassing boards shall be a means or basis for resolving the discrepancies between the ERs and CoVs subject of protests.
     
    5.  For purposes of final audit of the final unofficial count at the National Consolidation Center by the COMELEC, the same should be conducted in the presence of representatives of the six (6) major political parties using the precinct-level breakdowns of all releases that shall be required to accompany the final release.
     
    6.  For the accredited citizens’ arm to demonstrate its readiness to undertake the unofficial count and adhere to the procedural safeguards provided herein, a reasonable simulation of the unofficial count system covering a pilot area in the National Capital Region shall be made not less than ten (10) days before election day in the presence of the six (6) major political parties, furnishing the COMELEC with the computer program to be used. In case the system deviates from, or does not comply with, the procedural safeguards, the COMELEC shall require the citizens’ arm to comply or face revocation of its authority to conduct the unofficial count for contravening a condition set by the COMELEC.
The detailed procedural guidelines are attached as Annex "A."

Based on representations by both petitioners, the Commission En Banc notes that NAMFREL possesses the track record, logistics, manpower and machinery to conduct an unofficial count, with the sole drawback of its inability and past failure to immediately relay to the COMELEC the system and basis of its unofficial count and/or tabulation hence opening itself to charges of count manipulation from some quarters, and allegations of unreliability of its unofficial count.

The oppositors, for their part however, were not able to provide convincing proof that NAMFREL or any of its top officials have consciously and deliberately engaged in manipulation of election results. In fact, the NAMFREL unofficial results, although different from the official COMELEC count, generally followed the same trend as the latter count. Neither can oppositor Leongson’s allegations that Jose Concepcion, as NAMFREL officer, accepted a cabinet position in the Aquino administration be, by any stretch of the imagination, construed as impartiality on the part of NAMFREL as an organization. On the other hand, Mr. Espina was quick to point out that he does not doubt NAMFREL’s integrity as an organization, and was merely imputing ill-motive on its top officials on the basis of NAMFREL’s 1986 and 1987 quick counts. However, he was not able to produce the vital diskette that was supposed to prove that NAMFREL top officials engaged in "dagdag-bawas" in 1987. Neither does Mr. Espina’s allegation that Mr. Concepcion agreed to stop the NAMFREL tabulation in 1986, constitute fraud.

NPC on the other hand, does not have any track record in the conduct of an unofficial count, and has been tentative on the manpower that it can devote to the count. Its relation with POLISTRAT remains to be firmed up, although POLISTRAT has stated that it can do an unofficial count under the NPC accreditation. NPC seems to be seeking accreditation on its own merits, but is presenting the capability of POLISTRAT to undertake computerized and electronics transmission without POLISTRAT being a formal party to the accreditation proceedings. In effect, this deprives the COMELEC of firm control and supervision over the entity that will conduct the unofficial count because its accreditation covers only NPC which is the sole party in the accreditation petition.

But we take note of an innovation in the POLISTRAT proposed method, particularly its ability to undertake verification and rectification of figures being reported. Although this has not been tried, and the Commission fears that it cannot afford such an experimentation in an election as crucial as the May 14, 2001 exercise which is barely two months away, it cannot help but take notice that such system when applied to complement an existing system, like that of NAMFREL, might work and even serve to introduce improvements in the existing system. The Commission En Banc would like the NPC-POLISTRAT’s system to undergo a baptism of fire, so to speak, in the interest of further refining and improving the conduct of the unofficial count.

If both petitioners are really true to the allegations in their petitions, then their desire to undertake the civic and service-oriented tasks of ensuring free, honest, orderly and peaceful elections, should take precedence over competition and the drive to grab sole credit for the count. Ideally, they should find ways and means to cooperate and coordinate with each other by complementing each other’s efforts in areas where one is strong and the other weak.

Henceforth, let both NAMFREL and NPC be authorized to conduct an unofficial count for the May 14, 2001 National and Local Elections, subject to the strict observance of the foregoing procedural safeguards, and further subject to a verified manifestation that POLISTRAT is indeed a part of and will be under the control and supervision of the NPC, for purposes of conducting the unofficial count based on certificate of votes.

Consequently, both NAMFREL and NPC, as accredited citizens’ arms should be allowed to have their own watchers in every polling place, as mandated by Section 14, Article II of Resolution No. 3743, for different reasons. The rationale behind this, in the case of NAMFREL, owes mainly to its evident track record, logistics, and expertise in the conduct of an unofficial count. There is no cogent reason therefore why it should not actively participate in the counting and canvassing of votes. NPC is likewise entitled to watchers for the sole purpose of requesting for the certificate of votes from the BEI. However, NAMFREL and NPC watchers should not be involved in election protests, where such involvement will give the impression of partiality. This non-involvement should not, however, undermine in any way the watcher’s right to raise an issue of patent irregularity before the board concerned.

Thus, the sixth copy of the election returns for each precinct, as well as the fourth copy of the certificate of canvass for municipal, city and provincial levels, shall be given to NAMFREL. NPC, on the other hand, shall be given the seventh copy of the Certificate of Votes [10] for Senators, Congressmen and Party-List.

Although election laws relative to the accreditation of citizens’ arms only provide for the election returns as the basis for conducting the unofficial count, the use of certificates of votes by the NPC for the same purpose is justified on the basis of the Commission’s inherent discretionary power to formulate its own rules of procedure to ensure and maintain free, orderly and honest elections. [11]

To reiterate, NAMFREL and NPC should, in the interest of ensuring a fair, orderly and honest elections, cooperate with each other in the conduct of the unofficial count. In this way, the election returns and the certificates of votes can be used to countercheck each other. Each of the citizens’ arm shall use the copy assigned to it, subject to a reconciliation of the figures where there are official objections from contending candidates, in accordance with the procedural safeguards provided herein.

In case of any discrepancy formally objected to by contending candidates in the figures based on the election returns and the certificates of votes, the subject documents and the figures contained therein shall not be used in the unofficial count of either citizens’ arm until the discrepancy is resolved at the city or municipal canvassing board level. Where finally the authenticity and the integrity of the election returns is determined, or otherwise no longer put in question, the election returns shall prevail over the certificates of votes.

Premises considered, and pursuant to Section 2 (5) of Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution and Section 52 (k) of the Omnibus Election Code, and other pertinent laws and regulations, petitioners NAMFREL and NPC are hereby accredited as citizens’ arms, and authorized to conduct an advance unofficial count under the direct and immediate control and supervision of the COMELEC in the May 14, 2001 National and Local Elections.

Petitioners are likewise conferred the following duties and functions:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

    A. Before Election Day:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
     
      1.  Undertake an information campaign on salient features of the Omnibus Election Code and help in the dissemination of the orders, decisions and resolutions of the Commission relative to the forthcoming election.
       
      2.  (If so warranted) wage a registration drive in their respective areas so that all citizens of voting age, not otherwise disqualified by law may be registered.
       
      3.  (If so warranted) help cleanse the list of voters of illegal registrants, conduct house-to-house canvass if necessary, and take appropriate legal steps toward this end.
       
      4.  Report to the Commission violations of the provisions of Omnibus Election Code on the conduct of the political campaign, election propaganda and electoral expenditures.
       
    B. On Election Day:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
     
      1.  Exhort all registered voters in their respective areas to go to their polling places and cast their votes.
       
      2.  Nominate one watcher for accreditation in each polling place and each place of canvass who shall have the same duties, functions and rights as the other watchers of political parties and candidates. Members or units of any citizen group or organization so designated by the Commission except its lone duly accredited watcher, shall not be allowed to enter any polling place except to vote, and shall, if they so desire, stay in an area at least fifty meters away from the polling place.
       
      3.  Report to the peace authorities and other appropriate agencies all instances of terrorism, intimidation of voters, and other similar attempts to frustrate the free and orderly casting of votes.
       
      4.  Perform such other functions as may be entrusted to such group or organization by the Commission."
In addition to the foregoing conditions, the accreditation herein granted is subject to:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
    1.  Compliance with all lawful orders of the Commission in the performance of the specific functions and activities assigned by the Commission;
     
    2.  Observance of non-partisanship and impartiality during the election period;
     
    3.  Undertaking to police petitioners’ ranks and prevent infiltration by persons or group of persons who may, directly or indirectly, destroy its character or impartiality;
     
    4.  Observance of the condition that it should not derive any support from, or be under the influence of, any foreign government or its agencies or instrumentalities, or any foreign person, whether natural or juridical;
     
    5.  Making available to the Commission, petitioners’ personnel, facilities, equipment, papers and effects when so required by the Commission for purposes of monitoring or checking the work of the petitioner;
     
    6.  Submission to the Commission of a weekly written report of their operations for the May 14, 2001 elections.
The Executive Director in coordination with the Clerk of Court, both of the Commission, is directed to implement this resolution, immediately upon promulgation hereof, furnishing copies to all field officers nationwide including the candidates and the political parties or coalitions of political parties.

The Education and Information Department shall cause the publication of this Resolution in two (2) daily newspapers of general circulation.

SO ORDERED.

  (Sgd.) ALFREDO L. BENIPAYO, Chairman

(Sgd.) LUZVIMINDA G. TANCANGCO, Commissioner

(Sgd.) RUFINO S.B. JAVIER, Commissioner

(Sgd.) RALPH C. LANTION, Commissioner

(Sgd.) MEHOL K. SADAIN, Commissioner

(Sgd.) RESURRECCION Z. BORRA, Commissioner

(Sgd.) FLORENTINO A. TUASON, Jr., Commissioner

 
 
CERTIFICATION

THIS IS TO CERTIFY that the conclusions in the foregoing resolution were reached in consultation among members of the Commission before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Commission.
 
 

(Sgd.) ALFREDO L. BENIPAYO
Chairman
 
 

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