Bantay Balota campaign to recruit 500k volunteers

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    LUBAO, Pampanga – The newly organized People Power Volunteers (PPV), headed by former Pres. Arroyo’s social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman, is recruiting at least 500,000 volunteers nationwide under its “Bantay Balota” campaign to guard against cheating in the country’s first automated elections this May.

    All measures for cheating in the May elections have been put in place and only teachers and the people have remained as safeguards against it, she warned in a press conference held Friday in this hometown of Pres. Arroyo.

    PPV was organized by Soliman together with Avelino Cruz and Florencio Abad, who both had been in the Cory Aquino cabinet as defense and education secretaries, respectively. 

    Cruz also used to be a lawyer of the Arroyos, while Abad is now the campaign manager of Liberal Party (LP) presidential standard bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

    Soliman said the PPV launched recently the “Bantay Balota” campaign involving the training of voters in the intricacies of the country’s first automated polls in May and mobilizing them against cheating.

    “We need a minimum of 500,000 volunteers to keep watch on the 75,000 units of PCOS machines to be transported to as many polling centers nationwide anytime from May 3 to 7. We need more than just one volunteer to keep watch on each machine from the time of their arrival to the completion of the voting process on May 10,” Soliman said.

    This, she said, is to make sure that the PCOS machines are not manipulated up to the time they are ready for use on election day.

    Cruz and Abad said in the press conference that measures for cheating has already been put in place.

    Cruz noted that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) virtually paved the way for cheating when it  removed all required safeguards in the special ballots to be fed into PCOS machines.

    “The ultraviolet mark is already gone. The Comelec said it disabled this in the PCOS machines as marks from the National Printing Office was erroneously used in the millions of ballots already printed,” he said.

    He also said that LP officials were also deprived by the Comelec enough time to access source codes to be used in the automated polls. The Comelec also denied the LP’s request to allow three random manual audit of results of the automated polls in each town immediately after the elections, as it preferred to do such audit two weeks after the elections. I really don’t know why,” Cruz said.

    He said that with the major ballot authenticity safeguards required under law already gone, spurious ballots could more readily be accepted by the PCOS machines. 

    Cruz said that even the hundreds of thousand of unmarked ballots found a few weeks ago at the National Printing Office would no longer be rejected by the PCOS machines.

    “Under the situation now prevailing, only the teachers and the people remain as safeguards against cheating,” he said.

    Soliman said PPV has already listed up about 300,000 volunteers to keep watch on the PCOS machines once they are delivered to polling precincts.

    “The machines will be tested upon delivery and then sealed again, to be opened only on election day on May 10,” she said.

    “People should take turns keeping watch on the machines 24 hours a day during the entire period. They can treat their work as some kind of a fiesta so they can bring drinks and food,” she said.

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