Saturday, 17 April 2010

Fil-Am leader rallies Pinoys in Canada to back Noy, Mar

CANADA - A Filipino-American leader came to Vancouver recently to rally support for presidential candidate Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and his running mate, vice presidential bet Mar Roxas.

A fund-raising dinner for a local Filipino-Canadian candidate turned out to be a night to gather support for Aquino and Roxas as well.

Speaking to Pinoys in British Columbia, Fil-Am community leader Loida Nicolas-Lewis could not help but call on kababayans here to vote for Aquino and Roxas.

“I want to tell them that this time we have a candidate who will not disappoint them. Noynoy will be a different president and that's why I'm doing what I'm doing," Lewis said.

Lewis, however, may have been barking at the wrong tree since most of the Pinoys at the event were not registered voters.

A community leader from Surrey admitted that while many are interested to know what's happening back home, very few are actually participating in the upcoming polls.

“It's my fault actually. Hopefully, one day I'll be able to do it. I think it’s a little bit too late already for the coming election. For so many years, we haven't found the one and it seems that we were stuck there for so long. It’s kind of frustrating especially for us, Pinoys who went abroad," said Narima Dela Cruz of the Surrey Philippine Independence Day Society.

Overseas absentee voting in Oslo off to a slow start

OSLO, NORWAY - The Philippine embassy here in Oslo reported that overseas absentee voting (OAV) has been slow in the first few weeks after it opened last April 10.

Vice Consul Lenna de Dios-Sison said that the embassy had only received 68 electoral ballots by mail out of the more than 700 that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) sent out to registered Filipino voters in Iceland, Denmark and Norway in February.

Returned mails

Part of the problem, Sison said, is the returned mails they have received due to wrong, incomplete or misspelled addresses of voters.

“We now have posted in our consular office in Oslo and on the embassy website a list of names whose mails had been returned so they can still contact us and exercise their right to vote,” she added.

However, Sison said that the embassy expected the voting to start slow. “Usually, dumarami naman iyan kapag crunch time na,” she said.

All systems go

Despite the slow start, Sison assured ABS-CBN Europe that the embassy’s preparations for the elections leading up to the canvassing of votes on May 10 around noon time are all in place.

“Preparations are going well. We had training on the conduct of the elections last month In Madrid, Spain had a seminar at the embassy para alamin ang kanya-kanyang role. We even had role playing,” she added.

She also said that the embassy had already received most of the materials from the Comelec that they would need for the OAV polls.

The embassy is an accredited postal voting post by the Comelec and will only receive electoral ballots from voters through the mail, except for seafarers who may cast their votes personally at the embassy if they are in the area during the election period.

But a local resident, Ruben Gerardo, who was contacted by ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau, doubted the accuracy of the approved list of the Comelec for Norway as it still has his departed mother’s name on it.

"Sino kaya ang boboto para sa nanay ko?” he quipped.

Local community participation

The embassy has called on local community leaders here to be observers in the process of sorting and counting of the ballots.

“Once the counting starts, di titigil ang board until matapos ang pagbilang ng votes, and the ambassador will personally bring the results of the counting to the Philippines. But before that, alam na natin kung ano ang tally of votes dito sa embassy,” Sison further said.

Comelec says automation may fail, but not polls

MANILA, Philippines - The clock is ticking for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to finish preparations for the country's first automated polls.

Many fear the elections will end up in chaos and failure.

But the Comelec has tried to assure voters that the elections will proceed smoothly.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the elections will not fail, insisting that the poll body has a back-up plan in case the machines bog down.

The Comelec said if the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines conk out, there are almost 6,000 spare machines that can be used.

This was what the poll body did when 2 machines malfunctioned in the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) in Hong Kong over the weekend.

If the Comelec runs out of spare machines, Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) can transfer the compact flash card of the PCOS to another machine where the votes will be counted.

In case of a problem in transmission, the SIM cards of the modem can be interchanged, a satellite facility can be used or the compact flash card containing the election results can be brought to the canvassing center.

If all these contingency measures fail, the Comelec said the votes can still be counted manually.

Forms for manual elections are being printed in case automation fails in some parts of the country.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said they are prepared for a 30% failure of poll automation by resorting to manual elections.

The Comelec added that the National Printing Office is about to complete printing the 50 million ballots needed for election day.

Only 5 million ballots have yet to be printed.

Failure of automation, not failure of elections, the Comelec said, is the worst that can happen to this year's polls.

And even if it happens, the poll body assures the country it will eventually have a new set of leaders.

JBC: Gloria can't appoint chief justice without our list

MANILA, Philippines--The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has said that the Supreme Court erred in its decision that the President, in extreme cases, can appoint the next chief justice even without a shortlist from the council.

In a comment filed on Monday, the JBC said, “These statements are bereft on any constitutional and legal basis and impinge on the independence of the JBC,” the body that vets nominees to the courts.

Newsbreak reported last March that the SC, in its decision allowing midnight appointments to the judiciary, also raised that the JBC shortlist is deemed unnecessary for appointments to the post of chief justice if the aspirants are SC magistrates.

"As a matter of fact, in an extreme case, we can even raise a doubt on whether a JBC list is necessary at all for the President--any President--to appoint a Chief Justice if the appointee is to come from the ranks of the sitting justices of the Supreme Court," the SC said in its decision which permits President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice amid the appointment ban that started March 10.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno is set to retire on May 17.

The JBC's latest comment is a deviation from its earlier comment, where it said it would abide by the Court's decision.

This time, the council said that the SC should have dismissed the petitions.

The JBC said that if the SC sticks to its decision ordering the JBC to submit its shortlist to Arroyo on or before Puno’s retirement, the council will “abide by the final decision of this Honorable Court but in accord with its own constitutional mandate and in line with its implementing rules and regulations.”

Delete statement

The JBC is a constitutional body created by the 1987 Constitution to screen and select contenders for the lower courts, the Sandiganbayan, the Court of Appeals, the Court of Tax Appeals, and the Supreme Court. It was conceived to insulate from politics the appointments to the judiciary. This was to prevent a repeat of the Marcos-era experience where President Ferdinand Marcos packed the Supreme Court with his allies.

The JBC is composed of representatives from the legislature, the academe, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the private sector, and the Supreme Court.

The JBC noted, however, that the tribunal’s statements are not binding since there is no actual petition lodged before the court raising such “extreme case.” Hence, the statements bordered on being “speculative.”

“It is respectfully submitted that such statements are obviously speculative and hypothetical and should be struck out from the Decision in order not to mislead the parties and the public,” the council demanded.

Petitions premature

The JBC also moved for the reconsideration of the SC decision, which allowed midnight appointments to the judiciary on the ground that the case is “premature.”

The council explained that by the time the petitions were filed at the court, the JBC had not yet decided when it would submit its shortlist to MalacaƱang. It was only in the process of gathering opinions from constitutional experts.

“Since the JBC has yet to decide the issue at that time, it is submitted that the present consolidated petitions and administrative matter are patently premature and should have been dismissed,” the JBC said in its comment.

The JBC joined the motions for reconsideration questioning the SC decision, which reversed a decade-old ruling that the appointment ban covers the judiciary. The President is barred from making appointments, except to temporary posts in the executive department, 2 months before the elections and until his or her term ends on June 30.

SC justices Presbitero Velasco and Eduardo Nachura also held the view that the petitions were premature.