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Comelec allays concerns over tagging of Mindanao as poll hotspot

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday allayed concerns over its decision to declare the whole of Mindanao as a category red election hotspot.

The poll body on Tuesday (March 19) tagged the entire region as poll hotspot in the run-up to the 2019 May Midterm elections due to “serious armed threats” made by the New People’s Army, the Abu Sayyaf Group and other terrorist groups.

READ: Comelec declares entire Mindanao, other areas as 2019 poll hotspots

Some groups have raised concerns that the declaration may lead the Comelec to favor certain candidates in the coming polls. However, the commission assured that this will not happen.

“With regard to the apprehension that this declaration might lead to partisanship by the COMELEC, the election management body reassures the public that this will not happen,” Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said in a statement.

Jimenez said the decision to place the entirety of Mindanao under Comelec control “was the result of consultation with local Comelec officials, as well as the PNP (Philippine National Police) and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines).”

“While it cannot be gainsaid that there are areas within Mindanao that are relatively peaceful, the inescapable reality is that election-related violent incidents respect no municipal borders; and that the activities of armed groups and terror organizations are not always clearly demarcated,” he explained.

Jimenez also assured that the results reporting procedures of the automated election system will remain transparent and protected.

“The results reporting procedures of the automated election system are fully transparent and protected by multiple redundancies which, by and large, have been proven successful in preventing cheating in the last three automated elections – 2010, 2013, and 2016,” the Comelec official said.

“There is no reason to fear that it will be otherwise in 2019,” he added.

The assurance followed the call of Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin for Comelec to review its decision, claiming that President Rodrigo Duterte only wants to use the poll body “to subvert the electoral process to [ensure] its favored candidates’ victory” in the coming polls.

However, Jimenez stressed that “the Comelec simply seeks to ensure utmost responsiveness to whatever need may arise” when it placed Mindanao under category red. – Robie de Guzman

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Magnitude 6.5 quake jolts parts of Visayas

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – A magnitude 6.5 earthquake jolted parts of Visayas on Tuesday afternoon, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported.

In its bulletin, Phivolcs said the earthquake hit at 1:37 p.m. and its epicenter was located in San Julian, Eastern Samar. It was of tectonic origin and had a depth of 63 kilometers.

Varying quake intensities were felt in different areas in the Visayas, as well as in Bicol and Surigao del Sur areas:

Intensity VI – San Julian, Eastern Samar

Intensity V – Tacloban City; Catbalogan City, Samar; Gen. McArthur, Salcedo and Guiuan, Eastern Samar; Naval, Biliran; Catarman, Northern Samar; Palo and Pastrana, Leyte;

Intensity IV – Abuyog, Hilongos, Javier, Capoocan, Julieta, Baybay, Barogo, Jaro, MacArthur, Matalum, Villaba, Leyte; San Francisco, Southern Leyte; Bislig City, Surigao del Sur; Iloilo City; Naga City; Sorsogon City; Panganiban, Catanduanes;

Intensity III – Binalbagan, Negros Occidental; Cabalian, Southern Leyte; Dimasalang, Masbate; Butuan City; Cabadbaran City;

Intensity II – Bago City; Bacolod City

Phivolcs said aftershocks and damage are expected from the earthquake. – Robie de Guzman

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Overseas absentee voting kicks off April 13

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Saturday, April 13th, 2019

An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Dubai participates in 2013 Philippine elections through overseas absentee voting (OAV). (Lonix Foto Grafix | PVI)

MANILA, Philippines – The month-long overseas absentee voting (OAV) has begun today, April 13.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) said there are a total of 1,822,173 overseas voters for this election. Majority of this voters are land-based workers totaling 1,779,140 while 43,033 are sea-based workers.

In photos taken by UNTV News and Rescue team in Singapore (correspondent Queenie Ballon), some of the registered Filipino voters there have lined up early at the Philippine Embassy to cast their votes.

Overseas Filipino worker Bobby Catolos, who has been working in Singapore for 20 years now, said he makes it a point to consistently exercise his right to suffrage since 2007.

In Hongkong, the UNTV News and Rescue team (correspondent Ferdie Petalio) reported that Filipinos there also went to cast their votes early despite the inclement weather.

Comelec-OFOV said most of the registered voters are in the Middle East and African region followed by the Asia Pacific, North and Latin America and European region.

However, there will be no OAV in three areas—Damascus in Syria, Tripoli in Libya and Baghdad in Iraq—due to the ongoing tensions there.

READ: DFA raises alert level 3 in Libya

Comelec said that of the 83 countries or Philippine posts, 41 will use vote counting machines (VCM), while Filipinos abroad within the jurisdictions of the remaining 42 areas will use the manual system of voting, either personal or through postal.

The 41 posts that will use VCMs include Agana, Brunei, Calgary, Chicago, Canberra, Honolulu, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles, Macau, New York, Ottawa, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Taipei, Osaka, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Wellington, Athens, London, Madrid, Rome, Milan, Beirut, Abu Dhabu, Kuwait, Manama, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Muscat, AL-Khobar, Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

The 42 countries that will use postal voting are Buenos Aires, Brasilia, Bangkok, Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzho, Hanoi, Islamad, Mexico, Santiago, Port Moresby, Yangon, Ankara, Berne, Budapes, Berline, Brussels, Budapest, Lusbon, Moscow, Geneva, Oslo, Paris, The Hague, Vienna, Warsaw, Prague, Cairo, Pretoria and Abuja.

Personal voting will be used in Jakarta, Dhaka, Dili, Manado, New Delhi, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Xiamen, Shanghai, Vatican, Amman, Tehran and Nairobi.

Comelec-OFOV hopes for higher voter turnout this election than the 16 percent recorded in 2007 and 2013 polls.

The overseas absentee voting will last until May 13. – Robie de Guzman

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Comelec spox calls on politicians to spare dogs from politicking

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – A photo of a dog with a campaign sticker on its body has gone viral on social media.

No less than Commission on Election (Comelec) Spokesperson Director James Jimenez posted the image on his Twitter account with the caption:

“Seriously. Isn’t it enough that politicking has already trashed the country you claim to love, you’ve got to harass dogs too?”

Netizens condemned what they claim as animal cruelty or a form of political gimmickry.

Jimenez did not mention any violation that corresponds the act but at the end of the caption, he called on the public to “Leave.Dogs.Alone.” – Marje Pelayo

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