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I.

On May 9, 2016, the Philippines will conduct its National and Local Elections
(“Elections.”) At stake are 18,083 positions, including the highest elective office in
the country, the President of the Philippines. 1 There are 54,363,844 registered
voters 2 in the country, 369,133 established precincts, 92,509 clustered precincts,
and 36,788 voting centers as well as 6,297 Accessible Polling Places 3 for the
benefit of persons with disabilities and senior citizens 4. This primer aims to assist
stakeholders in navigating the rules and regulations that dictate the conduct of
elections on the second Monday of May.
II.

Precincts and Polling Places
a. Precincts

An election precinct is a “unit of territory for the purpose of voting. 5” The Omnibus
Election Code of 1985 dictates that each precinct, as far as practicable, not have
more than three hundred voters (300.) Accordingly, the current list of the project
of precincts, as reported by the Commission, reflects this requirement. 6 Such
precincts are then structured into clusters of precincts. Further, Accessible Polling
Places (APP) are created to ensure that the suffrage rights of persons with
disabilities and senior citizens are not unduly hampered.
The Commission has recognized the need to cluster established precincts due to
the “limited number of voting and counting machines, inadequacy/non-availability
of public school buildings and other structures which may be sued as voting
centers, the lack of qualified individuals who shall serve as members of the
1 Reynaldo Santos Jr., Over 18,000 Posts At Stake in 2016 Elections,
RAPPLER, Nov. 26, 2015, available at
http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/108828-elective-posts-2016elections (last visited Jan. 25, 2016)
2 Commission on Elections, Philippine 2016 Voters Profile by Age
Group, Jan. 15, 2016, available at http://www.comelec.gov.ph/?
r=Archives/RegularElections/2016NLE/Statistics/Philippine2016VotersPr
ofile/ByAgeGroup (last visited Jan. 25, 2016)
3 Commission on Elections, Data on the Total Number of Barangays,
Established & Clustered/Grouped Precincts, Registered Voters, Voting
Centers, Accessible Polling Places and Detainee Voters, Nov. 16, 2015,
available at
http://www.comelec.gov.ph/uploads/Archives/RegularElections/2016NLE
/Resolutions/RegionalSummary.pdf (last visited Jan. 25, 2016)
4 RA 10366, Section 9 (2012)
5 BP 881 Omnibus Election Code, Section 149 (1985)
6 http://www.comelec.gov.ph/?
r=Archives/RegularElections/2016NLE/ProjectofPrecincts/POP

in line with the Commission’s “power to promulgate rules and regulations in order to ensure free. in line with Sec 52(c) of BP 881 9 Id.gov.[Special/Board of Election Inspectors (S/BEIs. 2015. Resolution No. by a sign in front “showing the number of the precinct to which it belongs and the Philippine flag shall be hoisted at the proper height. on the day of voting and on days when the board of election inspectors meet. 13 When a private building is used. 1.pdf (last visited Jan. honest. These precincts were assigned to Accessible Polling Places (APP) that are currently “clustered/ grouped. Dec.ph/uploads/Archives/RegularElections/2016NLE /Resolutions/res10019.” While generally a precinct is territorial in nature. 11” Section 154 of the Code exhorts that the polling place must be within the territory of the precinct.pdf 8 Commission on Elections. orderly and peaceful elections. 9” b. Section 152 11 Section 158 12 Section 154 13 Section 42 . exclusively for persons with disabilities and senior citizens who in their registration records manifest their intent to avail of their right to a separate precinct” granted by the said law. or any officer of the government or leader of any political party. Polling Place A polling place is “the building or place where the board of election inspectors conducts its proceedings and where the voters shall cast their votes.comelec. 25. 10” A polling place is marked. available at http://www.ph/uploads/Archives/RegularElections/2016NLE /Resolutions/res10019. or occupied by any candidate or of any person who is related to any candidate within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity.”8 it has ordered the clustering of established precincts with each cluster having “no more than seven (7) established precincts with not more than eight hundred (800) registered voters. 10 BP 881.)] and the peace and order situation in critical areas identified by the Philippine National Police/Armed Forces of the Philippines (PNP/AFP. 10019. group or faction. in accordance with the preceding rule. the polling place is usually a public school or any other public building.) 7” Thus.comelec. Republic Act 10366. created a second kind of precinct that was of a “nonterritorial nature. nor in any building or surrounding premises 7 http://www. the Omnibus Election Code requires that is not “owned.12 Depending on the number of precincts in a barangay. with regular precinct/s having the least number of voters. leased. in a central location along a public road on the ground floor of a building described below. 2016).gov.

shall be in plain view of the board of election inspectors. except what is being written within the booths.” 16 Further. the Code specifically orders that “the polling place shall be so arranged that the booths. Only members of the board of election inspectors. the watchers. political party or religious organization.under the actual control of a private entity.” Polling places may not be located “within the perimeter of or inside a military or police camp or reservation or within a prison compound.” 17 There will be guardrails separating the watchers and the table for the board of election inspectors but to be placed at such a distance that the watchers may still observe the proceedings. To protect the sanctity of the ballot. the watchers.” 21 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Section 155 Section 152 BP 881.18 If possible. the voting booths.”20 The Code is very explicit when it states that it is illegal for watchers “to enter places reserved for the voters” and for the board of election inspectors “to mingle and talk with the voters within in the polling place.”19 i. 14” It must be able to accommodate forty (40) voters at one time. the ballot boxes and the whole polling place.” Additionally. with entrance and exit to give them orderly access to the table and the booths during the voting. the watchers and other persons who may be within the polling place. Section 159(d) Section 159(a) Section 159(b) Section 159(c) Section 192 Section 192 . There “shall be a guard rail between the voting booths and the table for the board of election inspectors” and that the voting booths be “so arranged that they can be accessible only by passing through the guard rail and by entering through its open side facing the table of the board of election inspectors. and the waiting voters.15 The Omnibus Election Code defines the physical lay out of polling places. the representatives of the Commission. Persons Disallowed in Polling Place The Omnibus Code is strict about who may be allowed in the polling place. and the voters casting their votes are permitted inside. watchers may “stay only in the space reserved for them. guardrails shall also separate the table of board of election inspectors from the voters “waiting for their turn to cast their votes. the table. the Code requires the use of guardrails to separate the board of election inspectors. Those voters waiting their turn to vote may be admitted into the polling place if their “number shall not exceed twenty at any one time.

including special forces. Section 192 Section 158 Section 158 Section 158 . may not give or accept. Before the day of the election and during the entire voting period. a list of all the candidates must be kept posted inside each voting booth and in the polling place. candidates. or a member of the board of election inspectors. food or drinks. strike forces. First. or any person. Rights and Duties of Stakeholders a. he shall leave the polling place immediately after voting.Barred from entering the polling place are “any officer or member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines including the Philippine Constabulary or the Integrated National Police or peace officer or any armed person belonging to any extra-legal police agency. political parties. two forms of prohibited contributions. The upper part shall be covered. or other similar forces or para-military forces. special forces. money or things of value for such purpose. special policeman.” 22 They are only allowed to enter if he will be voting in that polling place however he must “immediately leave the poling place. free of charge.”23 Barangay officials are also not allowed to enter and stay inside any polling place. The Commission is required to keep the electorate informed as to who are running as candidates for the positions open for election. or things of value “during the five hours before and after a public meeting. thus a shelf and clear lighting are required. and on the day of the election. security guards. if necessary…”26 The booths are mandated to help the voters fill out their ballots.” 24 c. Supporters. 27 III. reaction forces. directly or indirectly. Voting Booths The number of voting booths in the polling place must be enough for “for every twenty voters registered in the precinct. Candidates. except again to vote or if he is acting as a watcher. and Political Parties Under the Omnibus Election Code. barangay tanod. “in which case.” 25 They are designed to protect the secrecy of the ballots such that “each booth shall be open on the side fronting the table for the board of election inspectors and its three sides shall be closed with walls at least seventy centimeters wide and two meters high. and all other kinds of armed or unarmed extra-legal police officers. organizations. on the day preceding the election.” This prohibition 22 23 24 25 26 27 Section 192 Section 192 BP 881. transportation. or to give or contribute. under Section 89. home defense units.

is specifically directed against the contribution of things of value for the benefit of the campaign..” b. if they are customary and normal dues or offerings. bridges. agents or representatives of any political party. address and other personal data. or his campaign manager.” 30 To further check the identity of the voter. puericulture centers. “the chairman shall distinctly announce the voter’s name in a tone loud enough to be plainly heard through out the polling place.” including the “treasurers. public meetings related to it. the board of election inspectors shall refer to his photograph and signature in the voter’s application for registration. as well as periodic payments for legitimate scholarships established and school contributions habitually made before the prohibited period. He must not complete the ballot outside the voting booth. his or her spouse or any relative within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity. Voters i.. the chairman of the board of inspectors shall determine the identity of the voter who shall give the chairman his name. “the board of election inspectors shall check his voter’s identification card or.28 A voter may not speak with anyone in the polling place other than to the persons necessary in the voting process. the newly arrived voters must fall in line in the order of their arrival. contributions or gifts.” may not “undertake or contribute to the construction or repair of roads. or for the ease of processes on Election Day. prohibits contributions and donations more generally. agent or representative. school buses.29 Before a ballot is given to the voter. As such.” If the voter’s identity is not challenged or the challenge has been resolved in his favor. They may freely enter the polling place if there are no voters waiting inside. How to Vote The voters shall vote in the order that they arrive in the polling place. If there are voters waiting inside. churches or chapels cement pavements. If there is doubt as to the identity of the voter. However. medical clinics and hospitals. if he does not have any. the voter will sign on the proper space in the voting record 31 and the chairman of the 28 29 30 31 BP 881. tithes or collections on Sundays or other designated collection days. “such as religious stipends. He must not show the contents of his ballot to any other person. “no candidate. contribute or gift to these organizations and projects. or any structure for public use or for the use of any religious or civic organization” nor may they donate. They are not allowed to crowd around the table of the board of election inspectors. as an exception. Section 104. Section 193 Section 195 Section 194 Section 194 . these persons may make the same donations.

or coalition not entitled to be voted for shall not be counted…”37 After the voter has completed his ballot. or coalition he wants represented in the House of Representatives: provided. 32 Only the chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors can deliver the official ballots to the voter. The Magna Carta for Disabled Persons provides the initial framework for the system of voting for disabled persons. which defines how the people’s Representatives in the Lower House are elected. It will be found in each precinct with safety features that the Commission may prescribe. The voter shall personally drop the ballot into the ballot box. as amended Section 14 39 Section 13 40 BP 881. Section 10 38 RA 8436. the voters must immediately depart. sectoral organization. by tearing the same. and the second vote is “a vote for the party. He may not make a copy of the contents of the ballot by any means. Section 194 34 Section 194 35 RA 8436. 38 The ballot box will be of such size that allows the insertion of the official ballots without it being folded.34 every voter is allowed to change his ballot only once. While only one ballot at a time is given to a voter. in case he spoils the first one given to him. He may not stay longer than necessary in the voting booth. Section 193 . This has been strengthened in RA 10366 which exhorted the Commission to create Accessible Polling Places for the benefit of persons with 32 RA 8436. every voter is entitled to two votes. will identify the voter as having voted. as amended Section 14 36Omnibus.Board of Election Inspectors gives the voter a ballot. Partly List System. He may neither enter a booth that another person occupies. which the chairman shall apply.33 The voter proceeds to the voting booth to complete his ballot. as amended Section 14 33 BP 881. Indelible ink. PWD/SC Under at least two laws. that a vote cast for a party. accommodations were made to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities and senior citizens are respected. the voter may not deface the ballot by erasing any printing. The first vote is for the representative in his legislative district. 35 Regardless. Section 195 37 RA 7941. organization. nor enter with another person. 39 After they have dropped their ballots. he shall place his thumb mark and signature on the allotted spaces in the voting record. 36 Under the Party List System Act. or by marking it with any distinguishing mark to identify his vote. 40 ii.

Section 11 RA 10366. To avail of an assistor. by any person of his or her confidence who belongs to the same household. or persons who usually assist they person with disabilities or senior citizens are deemed to be members of the same household. coalition of political parties. Further. obvious. Electoral Reforms Law of 1987. and. and other groups with a stake in the elections are granted the right to send watchers to polling places. said voter shall be allowed to be assisted in accomplishing the ballot by a qualified assistor. 44 c. Watchers Candidates. the person with disabilities or the senior citizen must indicate in their registration record that he intends to do so. First. The Electoral Reforms Law of 1987. caregivers. several conditions must apply. personal assistants. or if he or she has none.42” Under the same provision. no assistor may help for more than three times. and every candidate shall each be entitled to one watcher in every polling place…” 46 This entitlement is qualified by 41 42 43 44 45 46 RA 10366. Except for the members of the board of election inspectors. The assistor must bind himself in a formal document under oath to strictly fill out the ballot in accordance with the will and instructions of the voter. “if the physical inability to prepare the ballot is manifest. nurses. the assistor must be of voting age. Section 11 Id. Section 12 . furthermore. 41” To accomplish the said ballots. Section 10 RA 10366. even if not stated or indicated in the registration record…”43 The above rights and obligations of the disabled persons and senior citizens is strictly enforced. such that any violation of the previous “shall constitute an election offense. BP 881. persons with disabilities or senior citizens who are illiterate or who are physically unable to complete their own ballots “may be assisted in the preparation of his or her ballot by a relative by consanguinity or affinity within the fourth civil degree. or visible.” under the Omnibus Election Code.disabilities and senior citizens. the latter law requires that the Commission “shall ensure reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities and senior citizens to enable them to accomplish the ballots by themselves. including independent candidates 45. the assistor must promise not to reveal the contents of the ballot he helped prepare for the person with disabilities or the senior citizen. The assistor must help accomplish the ballot inside the voting booth. second. or by any member of the [Board of Election Inspectors]. As an exception to the latter rule. political parties. grants “every registered political party. Section 178 RA 6646.

[Spanish].” (3) “he has not been convicted by final judgment of any election offense. highly urbanized city or district in the Metropolitan Manila area.” Civil. the list of representatives authorized to appoint watchers is filed with the Commission. religious. Section 178 Id. [Filipino. Section 180 . (4) “he is not related within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to the chairman or any member of the board of election inspectors in the polling place where he seeks appointment as a watcher. The Commission shall furnish the list to “respective city and municipal election registrars.] English. The said 47 48 49 50 51 52 BP 881.the qualifications of a watcher and the limits to the rights of stakeholders to appoint a watcher. are collectively entitled to appoint one watcher for every polling place. business. Section 12 BP 881. and similar organizations authorized by the Commission. Section 12 BP 881. 51 The accredited citizen arm of the Commission is entitled to “appoint a watcher in every polling place. RA 6646.”49 A list of these representatives is to be given to the “provincial election supervisor or the city election registrar. service.” (4) “he must know how to read and write. political party or coalition of political parties to a representative in “every province. Candidates running to be members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. 52 The chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors shall be presented with the appointment of the watcher when he enters the polling place.” are entitled to designate the two principal watchers of every polling place.48 The authority to appoint a watcher is given by each candidate. or any of the prevailing local dialects.” 47 Only those authorized to appoint a watcher are entitled to one watcher at a time to stay inside the polling place. or any other crime. professional.” (2) “he is of good reputation. “represented by the political party which performed best or which polled at least ten percent (10%) of the votes in the last national election. Sangguniang Panlungsod or Sangguniang Bayan or for city or municipal councilors and who belong to the same slate or ticket.” The provincial election supervisors shall provide to municipal election registrars and election registrars of component cities a copy of the same list.” and. youth. In Metro Manila. “represented by the political party of the incumbent elected district representative” and the other dominant opposition coalition.”50 The ruling coalition. shall as a group only be entitled to one watcher. These principal watchers sit as observers in the proceedings of the board. Section 178 RA 6646. The appointed watcher is not qualified unless (1) “he is a qualified voter for the city or municipality.

Section 179 RA 6646.”57 Nevertheless.appointment shall have the personal signature or the “facsimile signature” of the candidate or “the duly authorized representatives of the political party or coalition of political parties [or organizations] who appointed him. Section 12 .” 54 They may read the ballots that are read out loud by the chairman. the principal watchers representing the ruling coalition and the dominant opposition shall place their signature and thumbmarks in the election returns produced by the precinct they are watching. to take notes. 58 In addition. Members of Citizen Groups or Organizations designated by the Commission 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 BP 881. a “certificate of the number of votes in words and figures cast for each candidate. Primarily. the watchers may not speak among themselves. provided it is done by those authorized in a signed appointment. Section 12 BP 881. they may not touch the said election returns. RA 6646. and even photographs of the normal course of events and of incidents that may come up. without protest from the Board under pain of penalty under the Omnibus Election Code.” 59 d. Section 179 Id. as well as the election returns when they are produced and singed by the Board. to the members of the board of election inspectors. duly signed and thumbmarked by the chairman and all the members. may be required by board of election inspectors to do so. However. Id. “If both or either of them is not available. any watcher present preferably with political affiliation or alignment compatible with that of the absent or unwilling watcher. unwilling or should they refuse to do so.55 They have a right to protest and to obtain a certification of the fact of protest “against any irregularity or violation law which they believe may have been committed by the board of election inspectors or by any of its members or by any persons…”56 The watchers have a right to have and to stay in a place reserved for them inside the polling place from which they have “full and unimpeded access to the proceedings. are entitled to recognition by the Board of Election Inspectors.53 The duly appointed watcher. The name of the watcher “shall be recorded in the minutes with a notation under his signature that he is not disqualified” under the law. Watchers may obtain. as well as to the rights and obligations defined by the law. their right and duty is to witness and inform themselves of the proceedings of the Board of Election Inspectors. Section 179 BP 881. and to the voters in a manner that is disruptive to the election proceedings.

First. “the said policeman or peace officer shall stay outside 60 Fair Election Act. The call must be in writing and entered in the minutes. third. Issues that may arise and possible remedies a. and the places where they were taken. pollsters must wear distinctive clothing.” Further. rules. Said announcement shall state that the same is unofficial and does not represent a trend. The initial duty of these groups is to “exhort all registered voters in their respective areas to go to their polling places and cast their votes. “the result of the exit polls may be announced after the closing of the polls on election day.5 . in the event that there is an actual disturbance of the peace. pollsters may not administer the said surveys within fifty (50) meters from the polling place. The members of these groups shall not be allowed to go inside such polling place. and. they must perform other duties assigned to them by the Commission. lastly. “for the detail of a policeman or any peace officer for their protection or for the protection of the election documents and paraphernalia…” When they are so called. wherever it may be conducted. functions and rights as other watchers of political parties and candidates. and regulations governing the conduct of elections. except to vote. Pollsters Exit polls are surveys conducted on the day of the election. They may be taken only under certain conditions. These organizations also have the right to “nominate one watcher for accreditation in each polling place and each place of canvass who shall have the same duties. pollsters must inform voters that they may refuse to participate. intimidation of voters and other similar attempts to frustrate the free and orderly casting of votes. impartiality and integrity with the members and capability to undertake a coordinated operation and activity to assist in the implementation” of the laws. and must clearly identify the total number of respondents. second. They shall be called upon the majority vote of the board of election inspectors. Section 5. Disturbance of the Peace While peace officers are barred from entering the polling place.” e.”60 IV.” Their accredited watcher is the sole member allowed to enter any polling place. They are only allowed to “stay in an area at least fifty meters away from the polling place. a policeman or peace officer shall be allowed to enter or stay inside the polling place. They have the responsibility to “report to the peace authorities and other appropriate agencies all instances of terrorism.Section 52(k) of the Omnibus Election Code gives the Commission on Election to right to enlist non-partisan groups or organizations of citizens from various sectors “known for their probity.

Section 192 Section 192 GR 150312. terrorism. Comelec 63 the Supreme Court declared: "(a) the election in any polling place has not been held on the date fixed on account of force majeure. In the third instance.” 61 Nevertheless. GR November 18. by a majority vote. 2002 Synchronized Election Law of 1991. In the first instance. terrorism. transmission. violence.the poling place within a radius of thirty meters near enough to be easily called by the board of election inspectors at any time. The term failure to elect means nobody emerged as a winner. is empowered to declare the failure of an election. the election is suspended.” Other than the instances enumerated above. the Court states that other conditions must also concur. no election is held while in the second. fraud or other analogous causes. What is common in these three instances is the resulting failure to elect. Section 4 GR 152163. The Comelec en banc. under Section 6 of the Omnibus Election Code.” The Commission shall declare such failure upon the verified petition of an interested party. fraud or other analogous causes. terrorism. The same provision64 states that the causes of the declaration may happen “before or after the casting of the votes on the day of the election. 2002 . (b) the election in any polling place has been suspended before the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting on account of force majeure. In the case of Macabago vs. COMELEC65 the Court states “before the COMELEC can grant a verified petition seeking to declare a failure of election. in no case may they be allowed “at the door… to hold any conversation with any voter or prevent in any manner obstruct the free access of the voters to the polling place. In the case of Pasandalan vs. custody or canvas of the election returns cause a failure to elect. fraud or other analogous causes. circumstances attending the preparation. violence. such election results in a failure to elect on account of force majeure. under the Synchronized Election Law of 1991. the concurrence 61 62 63 64 65 Omnibus. Failure of Election Jurisprudence has defined three instances when the Commission may declare a failure of election. July 18. violence. or (c) after the voting and during the preparation and transmission of the election returns or in the custody or canvass thereof.” 62 b. and the procedural requirement of a verified petition.

Similar to the case of the declaration of failure of elections.of two (2) conditions must be established. Postponement of Election The case of Datu Kida vs. Under the principle of ejusdem generis.” In case of such systems breakdown of all the machines in the counting center. (c) loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records. In this case. the election nevertheless resulted in a failure to elect. d. and (e) other analogous causes of such a nature that the holding of a free. namely: (a) no voting has taken place in the precincts concerned on the date fixed by law or. the vote of the majority of the Comelec en banc is necessary. 2011 . Senate of the Philippines 66 discusses Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code on the Postponement of Elections.” c. (b) the votes cast would affect the result of the election. 66 GR 196271 October 18. even if there was voting. The said transfer will be done in the presence of representatives of political parties and citizens’ arm of the Commission. or when the computer fails to consolidate election results/reports or fails to print election results/reports after consolidation. after notice by the said Commission. These analogous causes are further defined by the phrase of such nature that the holding of a free. the Comelec may declare initiate the notice and hearing of the case to declare postponement of election moto proprio or by verified petition. (b) terrorism. System Breakdown The new laws with regard to the Automated Election Systems have addressed the possibility of system breakdowns. orderly and honest election should become impossible. (d) force majeure. The Court in that case declared that A close reading of Section 5 of BP 881 reveals that it is meant to address instances where elections have already been scheduled to take place but have to be postponed because of (a) violence. the term analogous causes will be restricted to those unforeseen or unexpected events that prevent the holding of the scheduled elections. Section 9 of RA 8436 identifies when systems breakdown happens in the counting center as “when the machine fails to read the ballots or fails to store/save results or fails to print the results after it has read the ballots. available machines from another city/municipality shall be transferred. orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision.