(PAGASA 24-HOUR PUBLIC WEATHER FORECAST as of Wednesday, 29 May 2024) At 3:00 AM today, the center of the eye of Typhoon "AGHON" {EWINIAR} was estimated based on all available data at 850 km East Northeast of Extreme Northern Luzon (23.1°N, 129.7°E) with maximum sustained winds of 130 km/h near the center and gustiness of up to 160 km/h. It is moving Northeastward at 20 km/h. Southwesterly Windflow affecting the western section of the country. 𝗙𝗒π—₯π—˜π—–π—”π—¦π—§ π—ͺπ—˜π—”π—§π—›π—˜π—₯ π—–π—’π—‘π——π—œπ—§π—œπ—’π—‘: Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur will experience partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms due to Localized Thunderstorms. Possible flash floods or landslides during severe thunderstorms. 𝗙𝗒π—₯π—˜π—–π—”π—¦π—§ π—ͺπ—œπ—‘π—— 𝗔𝗑𝗗 π—–π—’π—”π—¦π—§π—”π—Ÿ π—ͺπ—”π—§π—˜π—₯ π—–π—’π—‘π——π—œπ—§π—œπ—’π—‘: Light to moderate winds coming from South to Southwest will prevail with slight to moderate seas (0.6 to 2.1 meters).

Tuesday, 30 April 2024

Comelec brings voter registration to Sitio Kapihan

By Renelle Escuadro

Every vote counts.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairperson George Erwin M. Garcia fleshed out this statement by organizing a voter’s registration caravan to Sitio Kapihan in Barangay Sering, Bucas Grande Island of Socorro, Surigao del Norte on April 25.

This initiative of the Comelec ensured that the members of the controversial Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI) will be able to cast their ballots in the next elections. 

The activity resulted in eight new voter’s applications and 235 residents were able to amend their information in the system and receive their updated voter’s certification.

Comelec Chairperson George Erwin M. Garcia, along with Comelec Caraga and Surigao del Norte, together with partner agencies from the PNP Caraga, Philippine Coast Guard - Northeastern Mindanao, Philippine Information Agency Caraga, and the local government of Socorro, conducted a voter’s education and satellite registration of voters for the members of Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI) at Sitio Kapihan, Barangay Sering, Socoro, Surigao del Norte. This will ensure more Filipinos from remote, conflict-ridden and vulnerable areas in the country will exercise suffrage in the 2025 National and Local Elections. (Photo: PIA - SDN)

Sitio Kapihan and SBSI

Sitio Kapihan is a 353-hectare protected landscape and the home of almost 5,000 members of the SBSI. 

With the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ cancellation of the Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBRMA) with the SBSI, this will result in the relocation and resettlement of around 1,425 households based in Sitio Kapihan. 

Members of the Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI) patiently fell in line as the Comelec personnel from Caraga region and Surigao del Norte provided assistance for the smooth and convenient conduct of the voter’s registration. (Photo: PIA - SDN)

Thus, Comelec has identified this place as a vulnerable area for the 2025 National and Local Elections (NLE). 

During the previous elections, Comelec reported that a single precinct hosted the 2,223 SBSI voters, who comprised almost 13 percent of Socorro town's 17,385 registered voters. 

Comelec Caraga reported 3,406 voters in Barangay Sering during the Election Registration Board hearing on April 24.  

Garcia said that during the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections 2023, only 84 percent of the nation’s qualified voters cast their votes in the recent polls. That is why the Comelec launched the Registration Anywhere Program (RAP) to bring registration closer to the Filipino people and to register every Filipino voter regardless of geographical location and political challenges.  

“The first area that we visited was the Spratly Islands, or the Kalayaan Island Group in Palawan, which gained 50 new voters.  We are not looking at the number, as our main goal is that every voter should exercise their right to vote on the 2025 NLE,” the chairperson said.

He shared that they recently conducted a two-day simultaneous RAP at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat and Camp Abubakar, Barira, both in the province of Maguindanao del Norte, on April 15-16. This served as a historic event since the Comelec was able to visit the camps of the Moro Integrated Islamic Front's (MILF) and encouraged qualified residents to file their application for voter’s registration.

Meanwhile, the Comelec has also partnered with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) to facilitate a news conference in Sitio Kapihan.

The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Caraga facilitated the press conference, which was made more dynamic and informative by the participation of the national and local media. Comelec Chairperson George Erwin M. Garcia, Comelec Caraga Election Director Francisco G. Pobe, PBGen. Eleazar P. Matta, deputy regional director for administration of the Philippine National Police Caraga, Philippine Coast Guard - Northeastern Mindanao Capt. Christopher DP Auro, and OIC-President of Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI) Johan Lasala answered the questions raised by the media. (Photo: PIA - SDN)

“Mas maganda na nandito yong media, dahil sila mismo ang magsasabi na pwede kayong bumoto sa susunod na eleksyon,” Garcia said. 

[It is better that we have the media here with us so they can report to the public that you can vote in the next elections.]

He also assured the SBSI members that Comelec will look into setting up a precinct inside Sitio Kapihan so voters will no longer traverse the five-kilometer road to reach the nearest school to vote.

Online voting and automated counting machines

The voter’s education was an opportunity for the Comelec to announce the changes and enhancements that they are currently working on and preparing for a better election experience in 2025.

“This is our first time to introduce and roll out some of the features of the automated counting machines that will be used in the 2025 NLE,” John Rex C. Laudiangco of the Education and Information Department of Comelec told the audience.

The automated counting machine is capable of reading more than 1,000 ballots, including its capability to read QR codes.  The machine can also operate for more than 14 hours.

Francisco G. Pobe, Comelec Caraga Regional Election Director, assured everyone that the Commission provides timely resolution to all election-related complaints, saying, “Kaya ngayong election sa 2025 bagong makinarya ang gagamitin natin dahil marami tayong narinig na kung anu-anong mga katiwalian kaya minabuti ng Comelec na palitan ang makina pati na ang provider para maibigay sa taong bayan ang tamang serbisyo kaya kung sino ang iboboto niyo, yan ang lalabas na resulta mula sa makina.”

[This coming 2025 election, we will be using a new automated counting machine because we heard different stories questioning the credibility of the previous ones. That is why Comelec has decided to change the machines and also the provider so we will receive the right service and the new machine will show the candidate that we voted for.]

A quick discussion on online voting was tackled to kick off in January 2025 with a three-month registration period for gadgets that will be used by Filipinos living or working abroad. 

Johan Lasala, interim President of SBSI, appreciated the efforts of the Comelec and other government agencies who personally visited Sitio Kapihan, saying, “I am happy that the government looks into our welfare. To vote in the next election means we contribute to nation building."  (RLE/PIA-Caraga)