Swift passage of early voting bill pushed to allow advanced voting in Maguindanao
The immediate passage of the early voting bill to pave way for advanced elections in areas of concern, particularly in Maguindanao was pushed by Senator Richard J. Gordon today.
Gordon, author of Senate Bill 2972 or the Early Voting in National Elections, said that holding advanced elections would allow the Commission on Elections (Comelec), police and military forces, and election watchdogs to concentrate their efforts in areas that need special attention, like in Maguindanao, which was placed under Martial Law after the massacre that killed 57 people.
"I agree wholeheartedly that we should move the date of elections in Maguindanao to an earlier date. I have filed a bill on early voting and the House of Representatives has filed its own version. With the help of our colleagues, we can fast track the passage of this measure," he said during the Senate's deliberation for the Comelec's budget.
"Since we are still meeting with the House on Monday, maybe the Senate President and the Speaker of the House can get together and make that our mission. I think we can finish that. It's really a very simple bill that would allow the Comelec to do that (early voting)," he added.
Members of the Senate, particularly Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., endorsed on Friday the immediate passage of the bill.
Gordon, father of election modernization in the country and author of Republic Act (RA) 9369 or the Amended Automated Elections System Law, noted that there are 181 areas, including Maguindanao, tagged as consistent election hotspots in the country
"We have witnessed one of the worst election-related violent incidences in our history. The massacre of the Mangudadatus who were about to file their certificate of candidacy, as well as their supporters and journalists who went with them, is a crime of the worst kind," he said.
"Given this situation, we should permit early voting to allow our police and election authorities to secure our people from election-related violence," he added.
The senator also stressed that expanding voting period to more than one day would not only increase voter participation, but can also reduce the risk of overworked poll workers making mistakes, and in the scenario of automated elections, the risk of having broken automated election machines.