The Commission on Election is holding a mock election today (December 29), a simulation of what to expect in the polling precincts come May 2022.
The mock elections were staged at Taguig City, Pateros and Pasay City in Metro Manila and in Isabela, Albay, Negros Oriental, Leyte, Maguindanao and Davao del Sur.
I don’t exactly know what the basis of choosing these places for the mock election but what I can surmise is that the end-result of this mock election will be ugly in that aspirants to the presidency and vice presidency will use them to prematurely condition the minds of their supporters as to what the outcome would be in actual elections.
As it is surveys (no matter how they claim to be using scientific models and algorithms) are all commissioned—therefore they are paid by those interested to know where they stand. Hence, the higher one pays the surveyors the more he/she can expect an outcome favorable to him/her.
What more for an officially- conducted mock election (done by the poll body itself) and sanctioned by the pandemic task force. The result, once known or leaked, can be the basis for a candidate (and supporters) to slug it out against the others for the position being aspired for, even if the sample size (just like surveys) are not really that representative of the entire population.
Comelec Director Teopisto Elnas Jr. earlier said that the mock elections in 34 barangays will be an “end-to-end demonstration” of the entire election process, from the precinct level up to the transmission of votes to the National Board of Canvassers.
Elnas said Comelec’s target is to accommodate 4,800 test voters.
But why so late?
It was right for Rappler to question “why so late in December?”
A Comelec official says they cannot push back the schedule as the funds for the mock elections were included in the 2021 – not 2022 – budget.
In a webinar organized by the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) last month,Comelec Deputy Executive Director Teodoro Elnas Jr. noted in his presentation that the target provinces are Isabela, Albay, Negros Oriental, Leyte, Davao del Sur, and Maguindanao.
In the National Capital Region, the cities that will participate are Taguig and Pasay, alongside the municipality of Pateros.
“There will be 100 actual registered voters who will participate in mock elections [in each area], which will be conducted right at the voting centers designated by the Comelec, by actual public- school teachers,” Elnas said .
He noted, however, that in Pasay, the maximum number of voters assigned in the precinct – which is 800 – will join the voting simulation.
Elnas said the dry run of the 2022 polls will be a test of the automated elections software (AES) system to be used for next year’s vote.
“The mock elections will be the end-to-end demonstration of the whole process. We will test how accurate and secure our process, such as the transmission of results,” Elnas explained.
Why not first week of January?
Ateneo School of Government dean Ronald Mendoza, however, asked why the Comelec set the mock elections on December 29, a time when Filipinos are preparing for the New Year holidays.
“Is it possible for the Comelec to move the elections for first week of January to ensure stronger participation from election stakeholders?” he asked.
Elnas, however, cited technical constraints that resulted in an end-December schedule for the mock elections.
“The Comelec’s budget for mock elections is included in the National Expenditure Program for 2021. It’s not included in the 2022 budget, so it’s difficult to push the schedule back,” Elnas explained.
The Comelec conducted a simulation of the 2022 polls back in October, but that activity was focused on identifying areas of concern in the poll body’s health and safety protocols amid the pandemic.
Mock polls last October
It will be recalled that mock elections were held last October in San Juan Elementary School, which had the biggest number of voting precincts in the smallest city of NCR.
School gates opened at 8 a.m. and four classrooms were used as polling precincts and another three classrooms as holding areas for the voting simulation in preparation for the 2022 national and local elections.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the voting simulation covered Barangays Balong Bato and Ermitano, which have a total of 4,235 registered voters.
Comelec commissioners, directors and observers from the House of Representatives, the Senate and other agencies were present to observe how the whole process might actually take place in the actual elections next year amid the pandemic.
“This simulation is not a simulation of the voting system. It is a simulation of the operation process,” Jimenez said.
The exercise aims to test and ensure the security and efficiency of the voting process and the implementation of basic health protocols, he said.
“It is a great honor that one of the reasons that San Juan was chosen was because of the city’s high vaccination rate,” said San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora back then.
Under Republic Act No. 9369, the holding of mock elections is required to test and ensure the security features, accuracy and functional capability of all the elements of voter registration verification system (VRVS), the vote counting machine (VCMs), transmission devices and the consolidation and the canvassing system.
The exercise also aims to help Comelec determine the average time frame in verifying the identity of voters, identify other areas of concern in the verification process and devise measures to decongest polling sites and implement procedures to complete the voting process in the shortest possible time.
Based on observations from the mock polls, the Comelec will draft implementing guidelines for the elections on May 9, 2022, considering the behavior of participating voters and the conduct of health and safety protocols.
Vaccination not required
The poll body is firm about not requiring voters to be vaccinated to exercise their right to cast their ballots.
“We are not requiring that because the law does not require it; and we are anticipating that on Election Day, there would still be those who are not vaccinated,” Comelec deputy executive director for operations Teofisto Elnas Jr. said.
“People who are not vaccinated for whatever reason may still vote and they would not be required to present a vaccination card of any sort,” Elnas said.
Jimenez added that the Comelec will also not require the electorate to submit negative test results for COVID-19 or any similar tests when they go to the polling precincts to vote.
However, he urged sick people “to stay in treatment or if you are contagious stay away from people” to ensure the safety of every voter during the elections.
“Obviously we want everyone to vote even if we have doubts about their health status, we will still allow them to vote. But if they are in quarantine or isolation or treatment, we recommend them to stay treated,” Jimenez said.
I completely understand the reason for simulating the electoral process before the actual polling. But for the Comelec to release the preliminary outcome of the exercise will be dangerous in conditioning the minds of voters and candidates as to who is leading and influence who they will vote for.
I just hope the Comelec will be discerning enough not to release the results of this simulation to any candidate or their supporters in the interest of fair play. Let us not influence the minds of the voters, just like what surveys are doing now.