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Too many partylist groups with 'A' names, Comelec to stop using alphabetically arranged ballots
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines - Aware of how a lot of partylist groups in the last five elections used a trick to have their names listed first on the  ballot, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has taken action to prevent the ploy from being carried out again in the next polls. 

On Friday, the Comelec raffled off the placements of partylist groups in the official ballots that will be used in the May 2013 elections. 

The Comelec will no longer use  alphabetically arranged ballots for the partylist groups running in the May polls because many of them had either affixed letter A or number 1 on their names in previous elections so that they could be on the top of the voting list and get ahead of their poll rivals. 

"The reason for these group names is in order for them to be in the top of the listing of party-list groups,” Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento told reporters on Friday. 

“And so, to level the playing field we decided to conduct a raffle. This is a historic first for the party-list groups," he added. 

Data from Comelec showed that in the 2010 elections, 103 of the 187 groups that joined the race had names that started with either A or AA, while 11 of them either affixed "1" or "1st" to their names, similar to what partylist group 1-Utak did in 2007 when it won in the polls. 

In 1998, the first partylist polls, six of the 13 that won had names starting with the letter A - Abanse!Pinay, ABA, Akbayan, Alagad, Ako, and Apec. 

In 2001, five of the 12 winners also had names starting with A - ABA, Abanse!Pinay, Akbayan, Amin, and Apec. 

The trend continued in the 2004 elections. Eight of the 16 winners also had names starting with the first letter of the alphabet - Akbayan, Alagad, AVE, An Waray, Amin, Anakpawis, Alif, and Apec. 

In 2007, 17 of the 33 winners likewise had names starting with A - A Teacher, Aba Ako, Abakada Guro, Abono, Abs, Agap, Akbayan, Alagad, Alif, Amin, An Waray, ANAD, Anakpawis, Ang Kasangga, Apec, ARC, and AT. 

Ballot positioning influences candidate selection, according to studies. 

For instance, the 1998 study, ""Impact of Candidate Name Order on Election Outcomes," by on A. Krosnick and Joanne Marie Miller of the Ohio State University showed that candidates listed on top of the ballot "nearly always" had an average vote advantage of 2.5 percent over their poll rivals. 

Another study by Yale University assistant professor of politics Jonathan GS Koppell and Boston College assistant professor of political science Jennifer Steen showed that, “Candidates received a greater proportion of the vote when listed first than when listed in any other position."

Meanwhile, workers group Partido ng Manggagawa Coalition (PM Coalition) has filed with the Supreme Court an urgent omnibus motion to seek its inclusion in the Comelec's raffle of party list organizations.

PM Coalition earlier asked the Comelec to defer the raffle to give way to the high court's action on petitions by disqualified party-list groups. 

In the omnibus motion, PM Coalition also asked the high tribunal to hold a special raffle for the petition the group earlier filed seeking to overturn the Comelec’s disqualification and to facilitate action on the temporary restraining order that it sought. 

In its petition, PM Coalition requested for a TRO on the party list raffle and printing of ballots. But in the motion filed with the Supreme Court, the group asked for inclusion in the raffle as an alternative to a TRO.

The group hopes that it will get the same reprieve from the high tribunal after submitting substantial evidence supporting its petition for certiorari and eventual qualification as a legitimate partylist group.   

In the assailed Comelec resolution denying the accreditation of PM Coalition, the poll body states:  “A careful perusal of the petition clearly shows that PM Coalition fell short of the requirement to be accredited as a sectoral coalition. While petitioner has extensively submitted documentary evidence to support its petition, it failed to consider a material requisite to seek registration as a coalition, that is, that its member organizations should be duly registered parties with this Commission.” 

PM Coalition president and PALEA secretary Bong Palad said this particular Comelec resolution “was highly irregular and questionable” and therefore the offended party must be given due course before the poll body conducts the raffle and the final printing of ballots. 

“Many were aware of the fact that the Comelec’s half-serious purging of the partylist system has disqualified many groups but at the same time allowed many spurious groups and parties with no substantial qualifications to remain in the race.  This is truly unjust and unfair for a legitimate sectoral group such as the PM Coalition,” said Palad.