SHOPPING malls gained more significance in national life on Saturday after the Commission on Elections announced that some polling precincts will be located at shopping malls across the country in next year’s May 9 elections.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body studied the matter and decided to discard the small and sometimes inconvenient facilities of some public schools and move the polling places to a nearby shopping mall.
“We studied our old law and it is provided that the voting be held in public schools as much as possible,” Bautista told reporters.
“But over time, we have realized that public schools are small and there are certain precincts that are not even near public schools that also easily become overcrowded,” he said.
So after Robinsons Land Corporation president Frederick Go agreed to host a polling places in all of their 42 malls across the country, Bautista decided to announce the change.
Although the poll body has yet to decide how many and which public schools will no longer have to serve as polling places, Bautista urged shopping mall operators to dedicate one day for service to the public and provide a secure area that can serve as a polling place.
“Right now, we want to know first which mall operators are participating,” Bautista said, adding that the Comelec will have to deploy one vote counting machine for 1,000 voters. There are 81,000 polling precincts in the country.
Bautista said that by November 7 they will come up and finalized the precinct maps and will be able to identify which public schools they will no longer use for the elections.
“We are now studying how many precincts (will be transferred), but we have until November 7 to finalize the precinct maps. By that time, we can already say which precinct we need to move to which mall and we will make a proper announcement,” he said.
“Now we are already operationalizing it,” Bautista said. “Mr. Go is the first one who said publicly that they will support this endeavor. We have already talked to other mall operators and we hope that they will follow suit.”
Go said for his part, the restaurants and other shops will be made open to serve the public during the voting period.
“The details are not yet set, but I think there should be no problem. I think if the polling area is secured, the rest of the restaurants or shops to serve our public will be open. But of course we leave that to the Comelec to decide,” Go said.
He said Robinson’s Land will allow the Comelec to use the venue and electricity for one day to accommodate the voters.
“We do not mind, What is one whole day? We are doing this as public service to the country and the voting population at large,” Go added.
Bautista said this development will also eliminate some problems, like vote buying, violence and crowd congestions, during election day.
He also said that aside from security issue, where the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines will be deployed in all polling precincts, the transmission inside the mall will not be disrupted given that there are prepared generators once an electricity blackout occur.
“It is really a win win in so far as Comelec is concerned, and really though we need those forward looking businessmen like Mr. Go to be able to realize that this is good for the country and therefore eventually good for their business,” he added.
Bautista also hopes that through their efforts to enhance the voting experience and hasten the voting process, the Comelec is expecting a higher voters turnout in the 2016 elections.
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