Tents eyed as polling centers in Pablo-hit areas

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 18 January) — The “learning spaces” or tents put up by the Department of Education (DepEd) to temporarily hold classes may be used as polling precincts in areas affected by typhoon Pablo, a Commission on Elections (Comelec) official said Thursday.

Lawyer Marlon Casquejo, Comelec-Reg ion11 assistant director, said in an interview it is possible that voting will be done inside tents if the classrooms that were totally destroyed won’t be constructed in time for the May 13 midterm elections.

He noted that the provincial election supervisors in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley (ComVal) have submitted a report listing the number of barangays, polling precincts and centers that had been washed out by Pablo’s fury.

Casquejo said they will follow-up the status of the classrooms if they can be restored on or before the elections.

Sought for comment, DepEd-11 spokesperson Jenielito Atillo said they will allow the use of the tents if the classrooms would not be ready by then as polling precincts.

He told MindaNews the Comelec needs to look at the conditions of the tents to determine how to safeguard the ballots and the entire election process.

Two classrooms can fit in a tent, Atillo said, adding that so far there are 48 tents in Davao Oriental and three in ComVal that serve as temporary learning centers.

He said that 172 more tents are to be delivered, of which 80 percent will go to Davao Oriental, where the typhoon-ravaged municipalities of Boston, Cateel and Baganga belong.

Atillo said the replacement of school buildings with major damages “should be done before the start of school year 2013-2014.”

Currently, he admitted that DepEd has difficulties in completing the restoration of classrooms before the conduct of elections.

“That’s why we are actually relying on the tents to conduct classes in [heavily] devastated areas,” Atillo said.

After Pablo hit last December, he said that 769 classrooms need replacement and 307 classrooms require rehabilitation in Davao Oriental.

In ComVal, 96 classrooms were damaged and nearly 450 others need new roofs, partitions or ceilings, Atillo said.

Casquejo said postponing the elections in Pablo-hit areas due to lack of classroom will not happen, noting that temporary voting centers can be put up in affected areas.

Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. also reportedly said that postponing the elections in typhoon-hit areas would entail more expenses and hassles.

Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon, who is running unopposed, said that elections in the province should not be cancelled. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)