GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 October) — Some residents here will be casting their votes in the May 2016 general elections in the comfort of an air-conditioned shopping mall.
This as the Commission on Elections formally designated SM City mall here as polling or voting center for selected precincts of Barangay Lagao, one of the city’s biggest and most populated barangays.
Lawyer Jay Gerada, Comelec-South Cotabato supervisor, said they earlier endorsed the mall to their central office as voting center following a series of inspections and assessments on potential sites in the area.
Comelec-South Cotabato has jurisdiction over this city, Koronadal City and the province’s 10 municipalities.
Gerada said they initially considered the city’s four shopping malls — SM, Gaisano, KCC and Robinsons — as potential voting areas.
But he said the four establishments are quite close to each other and all are located within Barangay Lagao.
“It will be redundant if we tap all four establishments as voting centers so we just picked the SM mall,” he said in a media forum.
Gerada said lawyer April Mitchor, the city’s election officer, already made initial arrangements for the use of the SM mall for next year’s polls.
He said the city election office is “still looking for other malls” that could be utilized as voting centers for the coming elections.
In Koronadal City, he said they have not assigned any of its two shopping malls — Gaisano, KCC — as voting center.
“We established during our assessment that geographically, the school polling centers are closer and more accessible to the voters than the malls,” he said.
This is the second time for the SM mall here to be designated by Comelec as a voting center in a regular election.
In the October 2013 barangay polls, the mall hosted a special voting precinct for 100 senior citizens and persons with disabilities of Barangay Lagao.
The urban barangay was then selected by the Comelec as one of its four pilot testing areas in the country for the implementation of Republic Act 10366, which authorized the poll body “to establish precincts or accessible polling places exclusively for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.”
Based on the 2010 census, Lagao has a total population of 47,953, the third highest among the city’s 26 barangays.
It came fourth in terms of voting population with 27,902 or 9.18 percent of the city’s 239,319 registered voters. (MindaNews)