Saturday, 4 July 2009

Biggest coverage of Philippine 2010 polls set

PDI joins ‘biggest coverage’ of 2010 polls
By Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — Top Philippine companies, media entities, civic groups and academic institutions Friday banded themselves into a powerhouse pledging to provide the “biggest and most comprehensive” coverage of the 2010 elections, while helping protect the polls against fraud and ensure the results are delivered fast.

Leaders of the project said the group will field experienced journalists and use state-of-the-art technology as part of a nationwide effort to also urge Filipinos, including the young, to vote wisely.

The group is led by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), GMA News, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Smart Communications Inc.

The other partners include, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Catholic Media Network (CMN), AMA Education System, Ateneo School of Government, De La Salle University, San Beda College, University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines School of Economics, Youth Vote Philippines, RockEd Philippines, Institute for Public and Electoral Reforms, Solar Entertainment Corp., Philippine Bar Association, National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.

Resources of 20 entities

The newly minted partnership signed a historic agreement that would combine the resources of 20 entities to deliver election results in the quickest possible time.

Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento called the partnership “an impressive assembly of companies and institutions.” He hoped its efforts would prove to be “a providential collaboration that very good things will happen to our country.”

Optimism pervaded the signing of the agreement at the cavernous Studio 6 of the newly constructed GMA Network Studios in Quezon City.

Representatives of all the partners agreed that aside from quick transmission of results, voter education and a more comprehensive understanding of issues would be crucial.

Rooting for best

“I hope that this time, we will not just be rooting for the least of all evils but for the best for the country,” Marixi Prieto, chair of the PDI board of directors, said.

To do this, lawyer Felipe Gozon, president and chief executive officer of GMA, said the group planned “to educate, inform and empower voters to vote, and to vote wisely.”

“We are fortunate that the best of the best will be partners with us as coworkers in the biggest, widest and most comprehensive coverage of the 2010 elections,” Gozon added.

Manuel V. Pangilinan, chair of PLDT/Smart, said “devices have well advanced through the years and we are going to make them available” in the coverage of next year’s elections.

“We have to undertake a focused coverage especially because fears have been expressed that some people might resort to cheating to make their candidates win and thus extend their hold on power,” PDI publisher Isagani Yambot said in a statement.

Yambot added: “We in the media have to take the lead in exercising vigilance every step of the way—from the registration of voters, to the casting of ballots, to the canvassing and the reporting of the results.”

10,000 volunteers

Ambassador Amable Aguiluz V, chair of AMA Education System, announced he was committing “the entire resources of AMA” which would include “more than 10,000 dedicated and IT-competent student volunteers in major precincts and capitals” around the country.

More than 200 AMA campuses and over 10,000 computers and software will “act as hubs in transmitting critical data all over to the GMA operations center,” Aguiluz said.

“We will relay in real time the unofficial and partial tally as it is counted (in precincts) … We will give the correct tally, unofficial and partial, faster than you can say Kapuso,” he vowed.

54 broadcast stations

CMN’s Fr. Francis Lucas said his group was offering its 54 broadcast stations all over the country to help in the coverage.

Inquirer Interactive Inc. president Paolo Prieto said online news service would play a significant role especially since a huge percentage of overseas Filipino workers would rely on it for information on election issues and candidates.

“One objective is to get overseas Filipinos to exercise their right to vote. We want to get voters to feel they can make a difference,” Prieto said.

Bitter lessons

Representatives of academic partners stressed the need for an issue-based information program targeting voters.

“Transforming the politics of the country is a priority … We have to make the knowledge of issues available to a wider public,” said Dean Antonio GM La Vina, JSD, of the Ateneo School of Government.

DLSU’s Br. Armin Luistro said the project would help prevent “wholesale fraud,” adding that pubic awareness also meant the people “will avoid a repeat of the bitter lessons in the past.”

PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas said the media were a crucial element in the elections because majority of the the voters were exposed to them.

Young voters

“It would be from what good or bad information media will dish out that our mostly young and mostly poor voters will build their impressions, biases, choices,” Mangahas said.

She said there would be 45 million voters next year.

“The total number of polling stations will be 82,000 precinct clusters, if we could conduct automated elections, or up to 220,000 precincts if we must return to manual elections,” she said.

Christine Jane Jorge, lead convenor of Youth Vote Philippines, said the majority of the young voters in the 2007 election failed to exercise their right of suffrage because they did not know they had to register before voting.

She pointed out that 54 percent of the voters at present are between 15 and 34 years old.

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