In this year’s SAMAHAN Central Board (SCB) Elections, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) removed the ‘abstain’ option in the voting screen layout, but clarified that the right to abstain remains.
In order to abstain, the voter would simply have to click the ‘next’ button.
“Magbalik ta sa 2017, before ko nag-COMELEC, the voting was essentially the same except na wala’y abstain na provision sa guidelines, pero naa’y abstain button sa interface sa computer. Pagka-2018, gi-formalize namo siya ang abstain na provision. Karon 2019, nibalik lang ta sa kung unsa ‘tong sa 2017, pero wala na’y abstain na option.
“Pero ang right sa voter na mag-abstain kay naa gihapon, gitanggal lang namo ang ‘abstain’ as a choice… mao siguro confused kay gitanggal ang abstain na option, pero ang tinuod is, pwede mag-abstain si voter by clicking ‘next’,” COMELEC Legal Division Commissioner Jan Caridel Nacito told Atenews.
Nacito added that COMELEC patterned their process like that of the national elections, leaving the choices blank when the voter did not want to vote for any of the candidates.
“Kung dili nimo type si lone candidate na nagdagan, i-next lang gud. Leave it blank. Bale pattern lang siya sa national elections,” he said.
Commissioner Nil Marc Badilles added that the right to abstain is an act, so putting the abstain option onscreen would imply that it would be a candidate to choose from.
“Ang abstain man gud, kung naa siya’y option didto, mura pud siya’g entity, which is not right kay ang abstain is an act, it is not a candidate, a person or an entity that you would choose from… that’s why to abstain, you need to click the next button lang, or leave it blank,” Badilles said.
For Nacito, the reason why COMELEC removed the ‘abstain’ button is to ensure that a candidate would fill the position.
“It’s also a way for us to ensure na naa’y makalingkod… it’s not only hassle for COMELEC if there’s a filler elections, actually it’s a hassle for the whole Ateneo community. Kay if wala’y student body, kinsa’y maglihok for the students? Over the years, it has been proven na a student body is necessary para ma-organize ang students sa Ateneo… kung wala’y maglingkod it would be hassle for everyone,” he stressed.
Badilles said that the confusion arose because a big portion of the voting population are first year students who had no prior experience of the voting process, but assured that the removal of the button did not mean that they removed the voter’s right to abstain.
Badilles also reminded the aspirants to read and familiarize themselves with the SCB guidelines in order to understand the grounds of COMELEC’s decisions.
“Diyan tayo babase sa lahat ng mangyayari and decisions of the COMELEC… it is better if they will really familiarize themselves with the guidelines para hindi siya maging vague … because clear naman talaga yung guidelines, basahin lang talga nila and follow what is written there,” he said.
Nacito reminded the voters to choose their candidates wisely and get to know them better through the events COMELEC arranged.
“For the voters… they should get to know their candidates more than what they speak sa campaign… why don’t we try seeking for ourselves the truth, is this candidate really credible, is this candidate really fit for the job, is this candidate really worthy for the position?” he said.