“Nagaklase na man ang DepEd karon, so kung asa sila gaklase, didto jud na (ang polling center), kung naa silay tent, didto mag voting (The DepEd has already resumed classes. Expectedly, the elections will be conducted there. If they have set up tents, then the voting will be held there).” – Villaneda Olang, Public Schools District Supervisor of the South District of Baganga town in Davao Oriental
By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The May elections will not be postponed even with the absence of polling places in typhoon Pablo-hit areas.
This was stressed by lawyer Marlon Casquejo, the Assistant Regional Election Officer of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), during the regular I-speak on January 17.
“Dili mahimo i-postpone tungod lang ana kay pwede man ta maghimo og temporary nga voting center [We can’t just postpone (the elections) because of that (lack of polling places). We can make temporary voting centers, anyway],” Casquejo said.
The Department of Education has reported that at least 61 classrooms in Compostela Valley were washed out by Pablo while 80 schools were damaged. In Davao Oriental 22o schools were damaged, 444 classrooms were washed out and 446 classrooms were destroyed.
Tents or other structures that have been put-up as temporary schools may be utilized for the elections, the Comelec said.
“It’s mandated by the law that all government officials shall be selected through elections,” said Comelec-XI’s Acting Regional Officer Wilfred Jay Balisado, thus, the elections, he added, will have to push through.
The Comelec, Balisado said, has been coordinating with the affected areas in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental to plan for the immediate rehabilitation of schools since the election is fast approaching and for the students to go back to school especially for the 2013-2014 school year.
However, the Comelec has yet to ascertain the extent of the damage of structures that are to be used as polling places.
“After Pablo gipasubmit ang Provincial Election Supervisors sa mga affected areas sa DO and Comval kung asa tong mga barangays, presinto, polling center nga na wash-out jud. Mangayo na pud next month kung unsa na ang status sa mga skwelahan kung kaya pa ba marestore o dili (After Pablo, the Provincial Election Supervisors in the affected areas of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley were asked to submit a report on which villages, polling centers were washed out. By next month, we will make a follow up on the status of the schools to find out if these could be restored or not),” Casquejo said.
“We only have a small number of precincts so it would be of much help if they can completely repair one or two school buildings which can accommodate three precincts each,” said Villaneda Olang, Public Schools District Supervisor of the South District of Baganga town, in a phone interview with davaotoday.com.
Olang said that as teachers, they are always ready if there will be indeed no suspension of elections in their area. However, she noted that it would be best if the school buildings will be repaired ahead of time.
“Nagaklase na man ang DepEd karon, so kung asa sila gaklase, didto jud na (ang polling center), kung naa silay tent, didto mag voting (The DepEd has already resumed classes. Expectedly, the elections will be conducted there. If they have set up tents, then the voting will be held there),” she said.
However, Olang raised her worry if such makeshift tents can withstand heavy rains. It would be “unimaginable,” she said, for the teachers to run around carrying electoral materials and equipment, including the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
She also shared that even if they have secured temporary learning structures and have found help in securing food and school materials for the students, they have not yet resumed their regular formal lesson schedules.
“The children only have storytelling and singing sessions,” she said.
The evening shift of the classes has also been canceled as electricity in the town is not yet fully restored. This, she said, is also crucial in the conduct of elections.
Meanwhile, Father Joe Dizon of the election watchdog Kontra Daya (Against Electoral Fraud), said that the government needs to prioritize the rehabilitation of infrastructures the people need the most, especially the schools for children.
“The government should also consider how prepared the people are in participating the elections especially now that they are facing the difficult times,” Dizon said. He added, the government must take full responsibility to muster enough preparations “so that the people’s right to suffrage will not be sacrificed.” (With reports from Dang Tizon /davaotoday.com)