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More eyes to watch: De Lima seeks additional personnel for Comelec

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Detained Senator Leila de Lima wants to increase the number of poll personnel to preserve the integrity of the Commission of Elections (Comelec).

She filed a measure seeking to give the Comelec the power to procure its own offices and increase the number of election personnel based on its needs.

De Lima, an election lawyer by profession, filed Senate Bill No. 2025 which seeks to amend 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 opposition senator said.

On ratio of election assistants to registered voters, De Lima proposed that there should be one election assistant for every 20,000 registered voters.

She 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 said.

The senator from Bicol said the Comelec’s principal role is to enforce all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of elections in the Philippines.

“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 said.

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.”

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 (LGUs) under the said section.

She also filed SBN 1666 in 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 SBN 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.

“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.