Comelec accredits 25 foreign observers for BOL

MANILA At least 25 international observers are going to witness the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on January 21 and February 6 next year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Friday.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the foreign observers are from the European Union, Australia, Japan, Canada, and the US.

He noted that allowing international observers to monitor the plebiscite would increase the credibility of the electoral process they are witnessing.

Having third-party witnesses to the event basically assures that the world has a clear view into what's going on in the ground level. In that sense, it increases the comfort level of people outside the elections as to what's going on with the elections, he said in a media interview.

Second, observers do give reports to the election management body which means these reports act as very valuable feedback that will allow the election management body to fine tune its procedures, to weed out procedures that don't work and to adopt good practices that do, he said.

Finally, when we talk about international observers, of course we're talking about people who are very knowledgeable, normally in the democratic process. And people who are very interested in ensuring that fundamental rights of people who are voting are protected and that's a very important part of any election, especially in a plebiscite, Jimenez said.

The Comelec official reminded the visitors about some restrictions to be implemented.

Very few. Primarily we only ask them to act professionally at all times, to identify themselves to the election authorities on the ground. And that they give copies of their reports. They have access to all parts of the process, to the people involved in the process. For instance, if the Philippine National Police (PNP) were to hold a command conference on the ground, they, theoretically, can ask to sit in and watch the proceedings, he said.

However, it is expected that international observers will not interfere in the process. Whether or not they agree with what they see, whether or not they feel that there is something wrong with the process as it is ongoing. It is expected by international convention that they will not interfere in the process. The point is manuod tayo, hindi yung makikialam tayo (The point is let us observe, not intervene), he added.

As for their security, Jimenez said they are coordinating with proper authorities.

We are coordinating with the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines. They themselves have security liaisons. That is a very serious, real concern and that's why we're not sparing any effort in terms of putting the two of them together. These observer missions know that it is their primary responsibility to keep their observers safe. We will assist in every way possible, he said. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency