Comelec management calls for last-minute field staff reshuffle – Manila Bulletin

Just a week before the May 2022 elections, an official from the Electoral Commission (Comelec) sent a memorandum to the En Banc Commission regarding the continued reshuffling of polling station staff, which is contrary to normal practice.

Teachers acting as members of the Electoral Board perform final testing and sealing of Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) at San Juan Elementary School, as witnessed by Elections Commission (Comelec) Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan, in San Juan City on May 3, 2022, less than a week before the 2022 state and local elections. (Noël B. Pabalate)

Commissioner Marlon Helmetjo, who heads the electoral body’s steering committee for the 2022 ballot, said in a five-page memorandum dated May 2 that the reshuffle should have been finalized by February 2022. He said that it was the ideal period to put an end to all movement of personnel. give them enough time to prepare.

He cited six cases of reshuffles carried out in a memorandum issued by the office of Comelec President Saiamen Pangarungan, dated April 25-29. He stated that the following resulted from said decision:

  • One person shall solicit and act as (Chair) of the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) and the Municipal Board of Canvassers (CBOC), and concurrently
  • Seven (7) districts have no Election Officers (EOs)
  • Provincial Election Supervisors (PES) were demoted and made EOs;
  • A staff member of the Electoral and Barangays Affairs Department (EBAD) was suddenly transferred to Lanao del Sur;
  • Two (2) Regional Offices in the National Capital Region (NCR) were reshuffled without the knowledge of the NCR Regional Director of Elections (RED); and
  • In the April 29, 2022 memo from the president’s office, they even named a certain prosecutor. Ramil Comendador, allegedly from the Legal Department, as Acting EO of Picong, Lanao del Sur.

Helmetjo pointed out that Comelec’s legal department does not have an employee on Atty’s behalf. Ramil Comendador. The basis for this assignment, according to Casquejo, is unknown. If it went unnoticed, the polling body would then allow someone other than Comelec to preside over the canvassing in the municipality of Picong, Lanao del Sur.

Not the first time

Helmetjo said it’s not the first time the field staff have been reshuffled in their last posting since March 2022. It’s also not hard to go unnoticed, he said.

He cited Article 56 of the Omnibus Electoral Code (OEC) which states that there should be no change in composition, distribution or assignment within 30 days of the election.

“In all honesty and candor, the ongoing reshuffle implemented by the president’s office is disrupting election preparations on the ground,” he said.

He specifically mentioned that the last-minute reshuffle affecting Election Assistants (EAs) as EOs will create a mess in the implementation of the digital signature, as they will be chairing the Council of Canvassers. He said that these AEs are not trained to use the digital signature, much more, to fulfill the function and duties of a canvasser.

“Our field staff are ready for the upcoming elections on May 09, 2022. There is no reason for abrupt changes in their positions,” he said.

“There are certain actions that need to be stopped; otherwise, more serious injuries are predicted. Unknowingly and unwittingly, we are in effect sacrificing our redress and our women for a cast that is detrimental to the entire Commission and, sadly, to the public. We are setting a dangerous precedent,” he said.

Already in place

Helmetjo pointed out that at the time the memo was released, those affected at ground level, including preparations, are already in place.

He also pointed out that “no movement, no extra activity, no unnecessary proposals” of so-called COVID-proofing the elections and other “saucy” suggestions and implementations that are not even helpful, but only to ‘disarray’ all that the Commission has worked hard to achieve over the three years of planning, is necessary.

Helmetjo also pointed out that the men and women of the Commission are experts in their field, beyond what others perceive of them. He said that they know best, are trained and are well equipped in the field of conducting elections.

“This is the right time for the colleagues of the undersigned from En Banc to take a stand. Otherwise, all the hard work and years of planning for a successful, peaceful and orderly election will be in vain,” he added.

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Denise W. Whigham