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Poll watchdog group seeks help from over 100,000 volunteers for 2022 elections

By Jose Oscar Magpusao

The National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) revealed their plans to utilize volunteers for the 2022 national elections during a press briefing on Tuesday.

The elections watchdog laid out during the press briefing that they were seeking to hold a massive recruitment drive to tap at least 100,000 volunteer poll watchers for May 9, 2022 as the COVID-19 pandemic makes it difficult to conduct operations not only for Namfrel, but also for the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Namfrel Secretary General Eric Alvia said during the press briefing that up to 105,000 volunteers would be needed to act as poll watchers so that one volunteer could be assigned per precinct.

"We are encouraging people to volunteer to watch the polls besides turning out to vote," Alvia said in the press briefing.

“We also realize na napakahirap ng paghahanda ng halalan ngayon dahil nga we’ll have to abide by certain health and safety protocols and we do not want election activities to be mass spreader events,” he added.

This comes after Comelec’s plans to open more voting centers to reduce crowding during the pandemic from 98,000 to 105,000 voting sites, as there are 74 million potential voters, with 62 million registered voters at the time according to Namfrel.

The volunteers will be tasked to monitor whether or not voting starts on time, whether or not there were security problems or threats during the event, as well as monitor the ballots, vote counting machines and the processing and storage of votes, among others.

"We do not discriminate on anyone but, as much as possible, we’d prefer volunteers who have been fully vaccinated, or who are young, or who are not senior citizens, because they will be deployed and fielded into the voting centers and sites, and they may be exposed unduly," Alvia said, adding that any IATF requirements would be adhered to as they deploy their volunteers.

“Anyone can be a volunteer as long as you are not a partisan and you hold the integrity of being a volunteer. We do some background checks to reveal their intentions. If they are found out to be partisan, they will be asked to resign and desist from doing their activities at Namfrel. We do our internal checks also and, if there are any violations, they are taken out immediately,” Alvia responded when asked how volunteer integrity would be maintained.

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