Thursday, April 14, 2016

Comelec, PNP reject PDP-Laban's request to declare Sorsogon as election hotspot

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) disapproved the request of the local candidates of the PDP-Laban in Sorsogon to declare the entire province as an election hotspot.

The request of the party was in connection with the harassment experienced by the local candidates, led by gubernatorial candidate Eric Dioneda, son of former Reform the AFP Movement leader and former Sorsogon City mayor Leovic Dioneda.

On April 3 night, Dioneda's group was having a campaign rally in Barangay Hall of Buhatan, Sorsogon City when 20 fully armed men came and told them to stop their campaign.

The young Dioneda said the harassment resulted in fear and trauma among them, especially that the armed men poked guns on the heads of most of them, asked them to drop with heads facing the ground and threatened to kill them.

The PDP-Laban gubernatorial candidate said the Comelec and the PNP did not accede to their party's request as the two agencies considered the incident as an isolated one.

The PNP Provincial Office of Sorsogon said it had already sent police escorts in places where the PDP-Laban group would be campaigning or have political rally.

Meanwhile, PNP Bicol officials based in Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola here received a report from Sorsogon PPO that it had already identified one of the armed men who harassed the PDP-Laban candidates.

The report identified the driver of the suspects' getaway vehicle as Fernando Domens alias "Metal."

It said the suspects were apparently members of the New People's Army (NPA).

Dioneda confirmed that Domens or Metal was formerly an NPA rebel who has gone to farming.

The police are still looking deeper into the possible identification of the suspects for filing of appropriate charges. (PNA)

Comelec to allow voters to ask for extra ballot on Election Day

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will allow voters to have an extra ballots if the initial ballots given to them are rejected by the vote counting machines (VCMs) on May 9.

According to the amended General Instructions (GI) for Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), the commission en banc can secure a replacement ballot from the teachers provided that the ballot rejection is not the fault of the voters.

“No replacement ballot shall be issued to a voter, whose ballot is rejected by the VCM, except if the rejection of the ballot is not due to the fault of the voter,” Comelec Resolution No. 10088 said.

Under the amended GI, in case of ballot rejection, the BEI shall still allow the voter to re-feed the ballot four times in four different orientations. After fourth try and the ballot is still rejected, the voter shall return the ballot to the BEI.

In the 2010 and 2013 polls, voters were not allowed to ask for replacement ballots.

For his part, Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista said the decision was reached on the idea that voters should not be disenfranchised if it is not their fault their ballot has been rejected.

“We believe that we should not penalize the voters if it is not their fault. We opted to err on the side of right to suffrage,” he said in a media forum Wednesday in Manila.

On the other hand, former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal did not support the decision, noting that it might pose problems on Election Day such as shortage of ballots.

“The problem here is if you have 800 voters and 700 voters appear, then 120 voters ask for replacement ballots, at the end of the day, the BEI can only say ‘sorry we ran out of ballots’. What will happen? Disenfranchised voters also,” he said.

The poll body chief is confident that they will have spare ballots since traditionally they have no record of 100 percent voter turnout.

The Comelec had already completed the printing of all the 56,772,230 ballots to be used in the May 9 national and local polls using the 1:1 voter-ballot ratio.

Meanwhile, an official of Smartmatic International said the company was ready to donate the 1.1 million thermal paper rolls set to be used as voter receipts.

According Smartmatic International Voter’s Education Chief Atty. Karen Jimeno they will donate the paper rolls.

"Smartmatic has internally decided to donate 1.1 million rolls of thermal papers that would meet all the requirements for the issuance of the voter receipts and that would also address the problems of the very burdensome requirements of the Government Procurement Act,” she added.

Last April 5, Smartmatic lost to Forms International Enterprises Corporation, which was declared as having the Lowest Calculated Bid (LCB) by the Comelec – Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

Bautista said that they would still have to evaluate the offer of supplier of the VCMs.

“We received a letter from Smartmatic offering to provide all the thermal papers for the voting receipts. They did so because they are afraid that the thermal papers might not be delivered on time for the elections. That was taken up during the en banc meeting but there were certain members who wanted to find out if this is proper. That is our present dilemma,” he added. (by Ferdinand G. Patinio, PNA)

House panels approve bill creating Quezon-Bicol Expressway

The development and progress among regions in Southern Luzon is expected to be enhanced by a bill seeking to establish the Quezon-Bicol Expressway, which has already been endorsed for plenary approval.

The House Committees on Southern Tagalog Development chaired by Rep. Isidro S. Rodriguez, Jr. (2nd District, Rizal) and on Appropriations chaired by Rep. Isidro T. Ungab (3rd District, Davao City) have both approved House Bill 6475 or the proposed "Quezon-Bicol Expressway Act" and have endorsed it for plenary passage.

The bill substituted HB 5623 authored by Rep. Scott Davies S. Lanete, M.D. (3rd District, Masbate) and HB 3741 by Rep. Aleta C. Suarez (3rd District, Quezon).

It provides for the creation of the Quezon-Bicol Expressway (QuBEx) which shall be financed, constructed, operated and maintained by a grantee, offeror, consortium or proponent, under and by virtue of Republic Act No. 6957, as amended by RA 7718, otherwise known as the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law.

The QuBEx shall link the province of Quezon with the Bicol Region starting from Malicboy, Quezon and terminating in Sorsogon.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Engineering District concerned shall construct the connect road for the purpose of linking the terminus of the SLEX Toll Road 4 (TR4) in Lucena City and the entrance of the QuBEx in Malicboy.

The DPWH shall be the lead implementing agency of the Act. The amount necessary to defray the cost of undertaking and completing the feasibility study of the project and other activities relative thereto shall be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Lanete said the State has continuously failed to promote simultaneous development among the country's regions as shown for example by the construction of expressways leading to Northern and Southern Luzon.

Lanete said there are only two expressways leading to Southern Luzon namely the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and the Star Tollway, and with these two combined lead up to Batangas only.

Whereas, Lanete said the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), which opened in 2014, is the third expressway built connecting the country's capital of Manila to the northern areas of Luzon.

Lanete, a vice chairman of the House Committees on Appropriations, on Poverty Alleviation, and on Public Order and Safety, said the TPLEX construction has brought immediate impact in the development of trade and tourism in Northern Luzon.

"It made Baguio City, a popular tourist destination, more accessible. In fact, travel time from Manila to Baguio City had been cut short from seven hours to less than five hours. Thus, Baguio City has experienced an exponential rise in the number of visiting tourists and consequently its revenues also increased significantly," said Lanete.

Thus, compared to the expressways of Northern Luzon, which cover at least five provinces, it can be inferred that Southern Luzon has been spared from development according to Lanete.

"The promising tourist destinations located in the southern areas of Luzon have remained stagnant, untapped and underappreciated due to difficulty in access. Along with the underdevelopment of these areas is the slow growth in terms of commerce," he said.

To pursue optimum opportunity for development among the regions, the lawmaker said there is a need to give attention to Southern Luzon. "By constructing additional expressways that would make areas, as far as Sorsogon Province, more accessible by road, only one result will be achieved which is progress," said Lanete.

Lanete said through his proposal to create the Quezon-Bicol Expressway or QuBEx, the State will be fulfilling its responsibility in promoting optimum growth among the regions in Southern Luzon. "It is envisioned that there will be an improvement in the tourism industry which will translate to a developed and progressive citizenry," said Lanete.

Meanwhile, Suarez's proposal seeks to amend Presidential Decree No, 1894 which provides that the grantee of the franchise has the right and privilege to construct, maintain and operate the SLEX from Nichols, Pasay City to Lucena City.

"After almost 30 years from its enactment, there is a need to amend P.D. 1894 to respond to the changes of time. The proposed amendatory law will extend the SLEX from Lucena City to Malicboy, Quezon by an additional 21.96 kilometers," said Suarez.

Suarez, a member of the Committees on Southern Tagalog Development, Appropriations, Reforestation, Health, and Accounts said the proposed extension of road network from Lucena City to Malicboy, Quezon aims to make travel to the Bicol Region faster and more convenient.

"It will decongest traffic within and around the area. As a result, it will improve the mobility of goods and products from Quezon Province and the Bicol Region. The faster and convenient travel would also translate to a growth of the tourism industry in these areas to the benefit of people living therein," said Suarez.

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