Church-backed watchdog gears up for Philippine poll

Volunteers will be assigned to 87,000 polling precincts across the country as monitors, helpers
Church-backed watchdog gears up for Philippine poll

Officials of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting prepare in Manila for monitoring the upcoming Philippine national elections with about 300,000 volunteers. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

A church-backed poll watchdog will deploy about 300,000 volunteers in polling precincts across the Philippines for the national elections on May 13.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) will also conduct a partial and unofficial quick count of election results.

PPCRV chairwoman Myla Villanueva said the spirit of the volunteers is very strong but their number is not enough.

"I have been talking to coordinators all over the country and, aside from voters’ education, they have been organizing themselves to cover as many precincts as possible," she said.

In Manila alone, the organization needs at least 300 volunteers to man its national command center where the votes will be encoded.

Villanueva said the focus of PPCRV will be to monitor the conduct of the elections and the unofficial parallel count.

She said most volunteers will be assigned to about 87,000 polling precincts to serve as watchers and to man voter assistance desks.

The Council of the Laity, meanwhile, has announced that it is endorsing the candidacy of opposition senatorial candidates in the elections.

The group has adopted the names endorsed by the People's Choice Movement, which has more than 100 Catholic and Christian lay leaders.

The movement issued a list of candidates who supposedly have the following qualities: character and honor, competence and abilities, faithfulness to public service, and faithfulness to God and the constitution.

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said he is also endorsing opposition candidates because the forthcoming midterm polls are "crucial" for the country's threatened democracy.

"The election on May 13 is very dangerous if the candidates of [President Rodrigo] Duterte win," the prelate said in a statement.

"If the Senate ... simply follows the will of Duterte, there is no more opposition and Duterte will become a dictator. Our democracy is in danger, so we in the Church must vote for candidates who dare to oppose Duterte."

Earlier, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said it will not endorse any candidate, adding that the endorsement of individual bishops is done in their own capacity.

A pastoral letter issued by the bishops' conference in January said Catholics are "encouraged to engage in principled partisan politics."

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Duterte's repeated tirades against Catholic leaders have prompted many to call for a unified vote for the opposition.

Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai, however, earlier endorsed candidates mostly from Duterte’s administration.

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