October 23, 2020
Extra day of voting will cost “at least P2 B”
A theoretical extra day of voting in the May 2022 presidential elections will cost at least P2 billion, twice the Commission on Elections’ initial estimate, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.
“If the virus will still linger by then, that casting the ballot becomes hazardous to one’s health, then adding another day of voting will cost an additional P2 billion to P2.5 billion,” Recto said.
His estimate is more than double the minimum P1 billion that Comelec officials told senators during Thursday’s hearing on the poll body’s P14.1 billion budget request for 2021.
Recto said Comelec’s plan to put up 110,000 clustered precincts in the 2022 polls, from 85,768 in the 2019 national elections, will incur about “P2.1 billion” in additional honorarium for teachers alone.
“If we simply double the 2019 honorarium rates of the three members of the Board of Election Inspectors or BEI then that would be the cost,” Recto said.
In the last elections, the BEI chairperson was paid an honorarium of P6,000; the poll clerk and the third member P5,000 each. Each was also given a travel allowance of P1,000, or a total of P19,000 per precinct.
“If you have to roll over the P19,000 per precinct and multiply this by 110,000, aabot ng mga P2.1 billion,” Recto said. “If the second day rate will be 50 percent of the first day rate, P1 billion pa rin ang idadagdag.”
Teachers in the BEIs, however, account for only half of the personnel the Department of Education deploys during elections.
“Yung teachers sa BEI in 2019 mga 258,000 lang. Pero ang total deployment ng DepEd ay about 531,000. Ito ang binayaran ng Comelec for their support and supervisory work, which ranged from P2,000 to P4,000,” Recto said.
“Hindi pa kasama ang mga pulis dito. If you deploy an average of one per clustered precinct, then you will be mobilizing half of the country’s police force, which on paper is 194,988,” Recto said.
Recto said Comelec should draw up contingencies in the event that the coronavirus will still be around in May 2022.
“Even if it will be held on the tail end of the pandemic, we have to make sure that voting will not be hazardous to the voter’s health,” Recto said.
“Elections should not become superspreader events. E tingnan ninyo ang mga eskwelahan tuwing halalan, mas siksikan pa kaysa sa MRT tuwing rush hour. Di ba sa America, after you have voted, you’re given a sticker that says ‘I have voted.’ Baka dito ang ibigay ay ‘I got Covid'”, Recto said.
Recto, however, said these scenarios are all in the “realm of speculation, for discussion purposes only.”
“Just the same, let us be prepared. Let us also plan in advance, make studies on how, for example, mail voting can be exercised by the disabled, elderly and the sick. Hindi para sa susunod na election pero baka two or three cycles in the future,” he said.