All systems go for 1st poll exercise amid pandemic

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    IT IS all systems go for the conduct the Palawan plebiscite tomorrow, the country’s first electoral exercise amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

    Elections Commissioner Antonio Kho, in a press conference in Puerto Princesa City, said nearly 500,000 registered voters are expected to cast their votes and decide whether or not to approve the proposed division of the province of Palawan into three provinces – Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, at Palawan del Sur.

    “It’s all systems go for this plebiscite… Our people all over Palawan are ready to conduct this plebiscite,” said Kho.

    Aside from deciding on the fate of the province, Kho said the exercise will serve a vital role in the Commission on Election’s preparation for the May 2022 elections.

    “This is the first time we are doing an electoral exercise under a pandemic situation.

    Assuming that the situation is still the same, this will somewhat serve as a laboratory for the conduct of the national election in terms of observance with health protocols,” said Kho.

    “Whatever lesson we will learn from this electoral exercise in terms of health standards, definitely we will adopt and improve for the purpose of the May 2022 elections,” he added.

    Comelec records show that there is a total of 490,639 registered voters in Palawan. They are set to cast their votes in a total of 2,959 clustered precincts, with each having a maximum of 200 voters, and manned by a total of 3,446 plebiscite committees.

    The Comelec said it has also established a total of 487 voting centers in 23 municipalities and cities of Palawan.

    According to Deputy Executive Director for Operations Teopisto Elnas, all election paraphernalia have already been deployed to their respective municipalities, except those for the Kalayaan Islands.

    Palawan Election Supervisor Urbano Arlando said far-flung polling precincts are already set to receive their election paraphernalia beginning today.

    Elnas said strict health protocols shall be implemented in all voting centers and polling precincts, right from the start of the voting period at 7 in the morning. He said only be five voters allowed to cast their votes simultaneously at any given time inside each polling precinct, said the poll official.

    He said the elections will be done manually, with voters just needing to write the word “Yes” or “Oo” if they approve of the proposal, or “No” or “Hindi” if they disapprove.

    The plebiscite question will be “Pumapayag ka ba na hatiin ang Probinsya ng Palawan sa tatlong probinsya na papangalanang Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, at Palawan del Sur alinsunod sa Batas Republika 11259?”.

    The results of the plebiscite are expected to be finalized by March 16.