There is a big possibility that voters can do their shopping and, at the same time, cast their ballots in the forthcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE).
Commission on Elections (Comelec) chief George Garcia said mall operators appeared receptive to the idea of setting up polling booths in their shopping centers during the BSKE.
“Patuloy po at napakainit talaga ng pagtanggap po ng mga mall sa atin pong idea na yan, sapagkat sa kasalukuyan po ay binibigyan din po niya tayo ng mga espasyo para sa ating satellite registration registration anywhere project,” Garcia said in a TeleRadyo interview.
Commissioner Garcia clarified however, that only residents of communities close to the shopping malls might be allowed to vote at the business facilities as provided by law.
“Ang nakalagay lamang po, kinakailangan yung kung saan sila boboto, ay doon sa kung saan yung pinakamalapit sa lahat,” he noted.
“So ang gagawin po namin, kung ano yung mga presinto o barangays na nandoon mismo sa vicinity ng mall, yun po yung aming ilalagay na, o ililipat ng botohan sa mall, so meaning to say wala pong mava-violate na batas sapagkat ang tawag po dito ay transfer lang of polling place,” he explained.
Garcia hinted at pilot testing the scheme during the BSKE in Metro Manila.
He also cited the inherent advantage of security for the voters since the shopping malls already have their respective security forces, not to mention the cost-efficient factor of the setup.
“At the same time, mas mabibigyan tayo ng malawak na espasyo at mas masisigurado ang seguridad ng mga kababayan natin habang bumoboto,” he explained.
Garcia also lauded the mall operators for providing spaces to serve as satellite registration centers of the voters under the Comelec’s Register Anywhere Project.
Garcia said mall voting is not expected to cost more on the part of the Comelec.
He noted that malls may be willing to provide voting spaces for free in exchange for the foot traffic that elections will bring.
“Kahit paano, siguradong-sigurado naman, na yung ating mga kababayan kapagka pumupunta dyan katulad din kapagka pumupunta sa mga paaralan, maaaring mag-softdrinks man lang o uminom, siyempre kahit papaano, ang iba dyan nagwi-window shopping pag katapos bumoto,” he said.
The veteran election lawyer said malls are more comfortable places for voting.
“Sa ating palagay, ganoon din naman po yung effect eh, madami rin naman po tayo kababayan na pag pumunta sa eskwelahan, pagkatapos na pagkatapos pupunta rin sa mall. Ganoon din po. Eh hindi ba mas magandang yung mga kababayan natin nakapila, kahit nakapila komportable, naka-aircon.”
“Walang magbibigay ng polyetos doon, walang magdudumi sa mga kalsada. At the same time walang batang ginagamit sa pamimigay ng mga polyetos na bawal naman sa pangangampanya. Walang mang-iimpluwensiya sa kanila habang sila’’y papunta mismo sa mall sisiguraduhin natin yan.”
“At the same time napakaimportante, hindi na masisira yung mga upuan, mga ibang gamit doon sa mismong paaralan sapagkat yan naman eh mga pambata tapos gagamitin ng mga matatanda kapagka tayo bumoboto. So at least mape-preserve natin yung mga paaralan para sa pag-aaral ng mga kabataan,” he added.
Congress earlier expressed support for the Register Anywhere Project, saying it would even increase the number of registered voters in future elections.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was forged between the House of Representatives and the Comelec, signed by Speaker Martin Romualdez and Commissioner Garcia.
“Our involvement in this laudable project is our modest contribution to the efforts of the Comelec to register as many voters as possible,” Romualdez said.
“We encourage our House members, personnel, and their dependents and relatives, as well as those of attached agencies, and our people in general to take advantage of this offsite or satellite listing project so they could exercise their right of suffrage in future elections,” he said.
House Secretary General Reginald Velasco has informed members of the chamber, employees, congressional staff and personnel of attached agencies of the registration at the Batasan.
In a memorandum, SG Velasco said registration for House members and employees and personnel of agencies will be on January 25 and 26, while that for their dependents will be on Jan. 27, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It will be conducted at the North Wing Lobby of the Batasan complex, he said. He said those who will turn 15 years of age by October 30, 2023 may register.