SEPTEMBER 29, 2017
PHILIPPINES
Ballot Printing at NPO Nears Homestretch for 2017 BSKE
in Luzon and Visayas 
Waste ballot paper trimmings being hauled off to paper recycling facility in Bataan last September 23, 2017. At the same time, thirteen rolls of unused ballot paper were isolated at NPO due to termite infestation.
Close to the start of the revised election calendar period, reset on October 1, 2017 from the original schedule of September 23, 2017, the production of official ballots for the October 23, 2017 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) in Luzon and Visayas continues at a 24/7 pace at the National Printing Office (NPO) in Quezon City until such time that a law to postpone the BSKE is passed.  By 29 September 2017, the Comelec would have finished printing the last batch of official ballots, which are allocated for the National Capital Region – 6,571,039 ballots for the Barangay elections and 2,073,254 ballots for the Sangguniang Kabataan polls.  Likewise, the Comelec is set to finish the printing of accountable forms, particularly the election returns and statement of votes by September 30, 2017.

According to the Comelec, 36 million official ballots meant for CAR to Region VII have been rolled out as of September 23, 2017. Comelec Director Ma. Victoria Dulcera, Printing Committee Vice Chairperson, told Namfrel that printing-related activities for the 2017 BSKE, including the verification of serial numbers, are expected to wrap up by October 13, 2017. When the Comelec kicked off its ballot printing activities at NPO last August 9, 2017 with the production of ballots for the province of Batanes, it announced its printing timeline until October 9, 2017 for the production of 77.2 million ballots. With the suspension of poll-related activities in Mindanao due to prevailing Martial Law conditions under Comelec Resolution 10195 issued last September 13, 2017, at least 17.7 million ballots which costs P53 million were not printed at all.

Relatedly, the transfer of packed ballots and accountable forms from the NPO to the Sta. Rosa, Laguna warehouse used by Comelec has been reset from 25 September 2017 to 1 October 2017.
Reported by Michael B. Mundo, Chairperson, NAMFREL Quezon City Chapter
NAMFREL’s Damaso Magbual discusses the "The Role of Civil Society in Promoting Confidence in the Electoral Process" in a Regional Conference on Democracy
NAMFREL Council member and former ANFREL Chairperson Damaso G. Magbual participated as a speaker in the Regional Conference on Democracy in South East Asia (SEA). Mr. Magbual shared his thoughts on challenges and prospects on “How Can Election Monitoring Bodies Build Trust and Legitimacy in the Political Process“.
 
The Regional Conference on Democracy in Southeast Asia held last 2-3 September 2017 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was organized by the Kofi Annan Foundation and Suhakam (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia).
 
Participants include human rights advocates and defenders as well as electoral reform advocates in the SEA region. Other participants from the Philippines were Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon who spoke on the “Key Role of CSOs in Ensuring Respect for Political Rights
Including Elections” and Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Luie Tito Guia who spoke on the different aspects of elections. LENTE's Ona Caritos and IPER's Ramon Casiple were also in attendance.
 
Opening the conference were President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former President of Indonesia, who spoke on “Democracy in Southeast Asia: Achievements, Challenges, and the Road Ahead” and discussed global trends on democracy and Yves Camille Désiré Leterme, Chair of International IDEA and former Prime Minister of Belgium and shared his views on “Democracy and the Global Challenge of Electoral Integrity”. Both speakers gave their thoughts on the gains of and challenges to democracy. Among others, they cited the Philippines, Timor Lesté, and Indonesia on the improvement in women participation.

Other topics discussed in the conference were: “Can Economic Growth and Democratization be Mutually Reinforcing?, “Best Practices in Financing Elections in Democracies”, “Securing Elections by Creating a Safe Environment” and “Pluralism and Identity Politics in Democracies”.
 
The former Foreign Minister of Thailand and Secretary General of ASEAN, Surin Pitsuwan, closed the two-day conference with a sober advice and call for ASEAN members to do more political reforms, open more space for civil society, and unclog constraints to civil and political rights.

Click HERE to know more about the conference proceedings.
Palace: Duterte set to sign bill postponing barangay, SK polls
(SunStar, Sept 26, 2017)

 
With barely a month to go before the scheduled polls, President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign into law the second postponement of the village and youth council elections, Malacañang said on Tuesday. 
 
In a press conference, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Adelino Sitoy expressed confidence that Duterte would sign into law the bill that would postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections set on October 23 this year. 
 
"I'm sure the President will sign it because he issued a certification on urgency," he said.
 
+ READ MORE
 
Namfrel to appeal postponement of barangay, SK polls
(Philippine Star, Sept 25, 2017)

 
MANILA, Philippines — The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) is still hoping to stop the impending postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections from October this year to May next year.
 
Namfrel secretary-general Eric Alvia said they would press Congress to reconsider its decision to postpone the polls, claiming it would undermine the democratic process of ensuring the citizens’ right to choose their leaders and make them accountable.  
 
“There is still the bicam so we will appeal our case and submit to their collective wisdom to reconsider,” Alvia disclosed.
Duterte wants someone else to appoint barangay OICs if polls postponed
(Rappler, Sept 20, 2017)

 
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he doesn't want the power to choose officers-in-charge (OICs) if the barangay and Sanggunian Kabataan elections are again postponed.
 
Duterte said in an interview on state-run PTV on Tuesday, September 20, that he had relayed his sentiments to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier that day. "I told the House of Representatives earlier through the Speaker – don't give me the power to appoint. I don't want it. Dive it to someone else," said Duterte.
 
+ READ MORE
Comelec eyes reuse of
printed ballots
(Inquirer, Sept 24, 2017)

 
With Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte likely to pass and approve the bill postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to next year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday said it was looking into the possibility of reusing some 29 million official ballots that the agency had already printed.
 
Comelec Chair Andres Bautista said the poll body might use stickers or correction fluid to change the date on the ballots, or just leave the date as is and just pass a resolution allowing it.
 

Sen. Bam: Barangay, SK polls long overdue, must push through in 2018
(Senate Press Release, Sept 28, 2017)

"The imminent postponement of the barangay and SK elections next month will give our election officials and other stakeholders an additional eight months to prepare and iron out all the kinks," said Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam Aquino called on the government to leave no stone unturned to ensure that the long-overdue barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections will be held as scheduled in May 2018.


+ READ MORE

Bautista impeachment not over
yet after House panel dismissal,
says Roque
(ABS-CBN News, Sept 27, 2017)

 
MANILA—Kabayan party-list Representative Harry Roque is not giving up on the impeachment complaint against Comelec chairman Andres Bautista that was junked by the House justice committee after finding it insufficient in form.
 
Roque, who endorsed the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio‏ and former Negros Oriental representative Jacinto Paras, said the committee decision will still be reviewed by the plenary.
 
+ READ MORE
Crackdown on Campus?: Removal of PUP student regent, student paper ‘takeover’ spark row
(InterAksyon, Sept 27, 2017)

 
MANILA – Student activists and organizations at the state-run Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Manila are reporting a “wave of attacks” on democratic rights, which they describe as “tyrannical” and “Marcosian,” but the school president has refuted the allegations point by point.
 
Among the alleged administration actions they are raising alarm over: Removal of the student regent,replaced by an “admin-appointed representative;” the shuttering of student offices and “tambayans” and the takeover of campus publications; suspension of student council elections; imposition of new fees, and a mandatory uniform policy; and deployment of police forces on campus.
 
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A day of rage against President Duterte
(Al Jazeera, Sept 27, 2017)

 
"September 21 is not a holiday. I have declared it as a Day of Protest. All those who want to protest against the government, the police, everyone… you go down and we will protest," Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte confidently dared his opponents ahead of massive protests organised against his controversial rule.
 
As many as 20,000 anti-Duterte protesters, composed of leftist-communist blocs, liberal civil society groups, and individuals from all walks of life, participated in separate massive rallies across Manila. They eventually converged in the Luneta Park, where the statue of 19th-century national hero Jose Rizal has stood as an inspiration for freedom fighters throughout the decades. 

+ READ MORE
House restores CHR, ERC,
NCIP budgets

(Inquirer, Sept 20, 2017)
 
The House of Representatives has restored the budgets of the agencies Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), which were earlier defunded with a P1,000 budget.
 
In a statement, appropriations committee chairperson Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said CHR chair Jose Luis Gascon, ERC Commissioner Geronimo Sta. Ana, and NCIP Chair Leonor Oralde-Quintayo sought his and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas’ help to appeal before Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
 
+ READ MORE
Citizen advocates raise issues
in FOI rollout
(Rappler, Sept 24, 2017)

 
MANILA, Philippines – Over a year since the Freedom of Information (FOI) program opened up the executive branch of government to more public scrutiny, several issues remain in its implementation, said a coalition of citizen advocates.
 
In a forum in Quezon City on Friday, September 22, the Right to Know Right Now Coalition (R2KRN) said it put the FOI rollout to the test by making data requests with 20 government agencies from May to September this year.
  
+ READ MORE

Business, foreign chambers umbrella group cautions Congress on impeachment powers
(BusinessMirror, Sept 27, 2017)

 
One of the biggest umbrella groups advocating much-needed reforms in the Philippine justice system, particularly those that impact the business sector, has urged Congress to exercise its impeachment powers under the Constitution “with great prudence, probity and transparency”.
 
In a statement, the private-sector umbrella group Judicial Reform Initiative (JRI) raised its grave concerns against “the growing use—or threat—of impeachment proceedings in Congress against a number of the Philippines’s highest ranking and prominent government leaders, including the President, the Vice President, the Chief Justice, the Ombudsman and the Commission on Elections [Comelec] Chairman” who are protected under the Constitution “because of the significance of their roles and the implications on our legal and justice system.”
SALNs to impeach CJ, other execs but Palace redacts Cabinet SALNs
(PCIJ, Sept 22, 2017)

 
A CHIEF JUSTICE was impeached in 2012 for failure to declare the true and detailed list of condo units he owned, and pesos and dollars he had in banks. Fast forward to today: The allies of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in the House of Representatives recently endorsed an impeachment complaint against another chief justice. She, too, the complainant averred, did not enroll the true and complete details of multimillion pesos in fees she received as a co-counsel in the government’s case against a multinational contractor, before she was appointed top jurist in August 2012.
 
Threat of impeachment lurked as well for the chairman of the Commission on Elections, who, by his estranged wife’s claims, did not report multimillion pesos he has raised from a currency trading business. (The Ombudsman has also been named as a target for impeachment for other reasons, however.)

+ READ MORE
INTERNATIONAL
2018 Will be a Pivotal Year for Southeast Asian Democracy
(Council on Foreign Relations, Sept 26, 2017)
 
The current year has been one of significant backsliding for democracy in Southeast Asia, a continuation of a regional trend that has been in the works for more than a decade.
 
Next year is going to be a pivotal year for Southeast Asian democracy—and it could get much worse than it is today. 
 
Kenya Court Says It Nullified Election Over Possible Hacking
(The New York Times, Sept 20, 2017)

 
KIGALI, Rwanda — Kenya’s Supreme Court said on Wednesday that it had nullified last month’s presidential election because the voting may have been hacked, and accused the electoral commission of failing to verify results before announcing them.
 
It stopped short, however, of calling the vote rigged, and rejected the opposition’s assertion that President Uhuru Kenyatta had used state resources and undue influence to sway the outcome.

+ READ MORE
Cambodia leads regional authoritarianism
(Bangkok Post, Sept 22, 2017)

 
The warm hug on Sept 7 between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, said it all. Authoritarian rule is ascendant in Southeast Asia. It now poses an existential challenge to human rights and democratisation all over the region. And Cambodia is leading Southeast Asia's authoritarian ways, followed not far behind by neighbours, such as Thailand.

 + READ MORE
 
Russian operatives used Facebook ads to exploit America’s racial and religious divisions
(Washington Post, Sept 25, 2017)

 
The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African American rights groups, including Black Lives Matter, and others suggesting that these same groups pose a rising political threat, say people familiar with the covert influence campaign.
NAMFREL NEWS is a bi-monthly electronic newsletter published by the
National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), Philippines.
National Citizens' Movement For Free Elections (NAMFREL)
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