CenPEG’s voters’ education, poll watch training stepped up as election nears

To build critical public awareness on the prospects and complexities of the automated election system (AES), the Center for People Empowerment (CenPEG) continues to make rounds in forums and discussions with various religious groups, schools and other organizations nationwide.

On February 16, CenPEG was the main resource in a forum organized by Miriam College’s Institution Network for Social Action (INSA). Entitled “Boto ko para sa pagbabago,” the forum, which was also in cooperation with AES Watch Youth, was for adult education students focusing on responsible voting and the automated election system.

The Miriam College forum was attended by over a hundred adult students. CenPEG Researcher Coordinator and UP faculty member, Prof. Rosa Castillo, was the main speaker.

A separate forum entitled “Views and prospects on the Automated Election System” was held at the University of the Cordilleras (UC) in Baguio last February 17. The forum was sponsored by Kabataan Party-list together with the UC Supreme Student Government (SSG) and the College of Information and Computing Sciences. Judge Cleto Villacorta III, CenPEG board member and Fellow, gave the talk.

Among the religious sector, St.Jude Parish in Manila also invited CenPEG in one of its monthly assemblies at the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City last February 22. The theme of the event was “Political reflections in light of elections”. Joining the forum were about 50 priests from Metro Manila, Bulacan, Mindoro, Pampanga, and other church members from Cavite. CenPEG research associate and trainer Nadja Castillo was the speaker.

Poll watch volunteers

St. Jude priests expressed their interest to participate as poll watchers upon learning of the AES vulnerabilities, said one of the CenPEG speakers.

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (Eiler) launched its Workers’ Election (We) Watch on February 22 in Manila, with CenPEG’s Ayi dela Cruz giving the latest monitoring briefing on Comelec’s election preparedness. Ms. Dela Cruz presented the System Trustworthiness, Accountability, and Reliability (STAR) Scorecard of AES Watch.

On February 23, Manila Science High School (MSHS) through the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), hosted a voters’ education attended by more than 100 teachers. One of the organizers said that understanding the AES is important to them as members of the Boards of Elections Inspectors (BEIs) on election day. This also served as an information drive for public school teachers especially now that they are facing an imminent “disenfranchisement”.

CenPEG research associate and IT systems consultant, Elsa Gines, was the resource person. At the end of the forum, the discussion was well-received by teachers who found the talk very informative, said one of the ACT organizers.

The audience also raised concerns regarding possible voters’ disenfranchisement, fraud and failure of elections given the vulnerabilities of the AES.

CenPEG Fellows also served as resource persons for the three-day national training on voters’ education organized by the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) on February 19-21 in Tagbilaran, Bohol. Attending the training organized by NASSA, which is under the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), were social action and election volunteers from various dioceses throughout the Philippines. (Please see separate story.)

CenPEG’s voters education and poll watch training modules are based on the policy center’s ongoing studies and monitoring of the automated election system (AES) that begun with the automated elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in August 2008. Its studies on the AES have been conducted in cooperation with the University of the Philippines’ College of Law and with the European Union (EU) under the “Project 30-30.”

Held since May 2009, CenPEG’s briefings, voters’ education, poll watch training, and political education have been organized for various political parties, presidential and senatorial candidates, as well as ecumenical groups, advocacy organizations, NGOs, universities, citizens’ poll watchdogs, lawyers groups, and the tri-media. CenPEG News

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