To preserve the integrity and independence of the Commission of Elections (Comelec), Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure seeking to give the agency the power to procure its own offices and increase the number of election personnel based on its needs.
De Lima, a known election lawyer, filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 2025 which seeks to amend for the purpose pertinent provisions of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881, otherwise known as the “Omnibus Election Code”.
“To guarantee the sanctity of the votes of the people, it is necessary to begin the process at the grassroots – in strengthening Comelec, the constitutional body whose principal role is to enforce all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of elections in the Philippines,” she said.
“In giving the Comelec the power to procure its own offices and enlist the personnel that it needs, the State effectively safeguards and holds sacred the ballots of the people, in whom all government powers reside,” she added.
Based on a 2013 report, in 39 field offices in Luzon and the Visayas, Comelec personnel suffer from “poor working conditions and a shortage in basic resources – [such as] personnel, funds, office space – that prevent them from fully performing their duties in an effective and efficient manner.”
Meanwhile, De Lima noted that Comelec’s independence weakened when Section 55 of the Omnibus Election Code came into effect because the provision of Comelec offices was lodged with the Local Government Units under the said section.
Similarly, De Lima filed SB No. 1666 last January which seeks to repeal Section 55 the Omnibus Election Code to ensure that the Comelec will not be required to rely on LGUs for its regional offices.
Under SB No. 2025, the government is mandated to provide suitable office space for its field offices separate from the offices of the LGUs, with sufficient manpower complement.
In her proposed measure, De Lima also underscored the need to automatically create positions of election officers whenever new cities, municipalities and electoral districts are created.
“There shall be automatically created for the city or municipality, positions of election officers and election assistants in such number as determined pursuant to the ratio established in the succeeding section,” she noted.
On ratio of election assistants to registered voters, the Senator from Bicol proposed that there should be one election assistant for every 20,000 registered voters.
“It is obligatory upon the State to ensure that utmost protection from evils that corrupt the conduct thereof will be provided – protection that run at the very roots of the exercise of the right to suffrage of the Filipino people,” she said.