What can journalists should do to improve the way they cover elections? “Covering the May 9 Elections,” a hybrid seminar-workshop, tackled election violence, the voting process, the role of media, media safety and places identified to be “areas of concern.” Speakers included representatives from the local government and the security force, the academe and the media. Held in Cagayan de Oro City, the activity was participated in by at least forty journalists and communications students. The day-long activity included a demonstration by a local Commission on Elections (COMELEC) representative and a workshop.
The country’s history of election violence served as a starting point for the activity, both as a reminder of the dangers that lurk in the trade and as a source of examples for how media practitioners can be better prepared for reporting from potentially compromising or high-risk situations and minimise, if not altogether avoid, risks to their lives as they cover news, and particularly, the elections.
Familiarisation of the participants with the voting process and the use of the Vote Counting Machine (VCM) were done using an actual machine and sample ballots in the activity venue. The stepwise VCM demonstration was prefaced by the terminologies being used in relation to the elections and the voting center. The whole voting process, from when one enters the voting center on election day, the VCM procedures, the scanning of the ballots, all the way to data transmission, was described in detail.
The participants were reminded that media is “here to protect the process” and subsequently, the ballot. Meanwhile, they also gained practical knowledge of what they can do to better protect themselves when reporting from perilous surroundings with volatile conditions as they do their work in the field. Updates from the Philippine Army regarding places declared as “areas of concern” and their status gave the participants a clearer picture as to where high-risk zones are and increased their awareness of possible dangers involved.
The Philippines’ next presidential election will be held on 09 May 2022. It shall be the 17th direct presidential election and the 16th vice-presidential election in the Philippines since 1935. Voters are to choose the next president and the vice president, along with twelve senators, all of whom will be in office for six years. They are to also elect Members of the House of Representatives (district and party-list) and local officials (from governor to municipal councilor) whose term of office is three years. To provide registered voters with the amplest time to participate in said elections and exercise suffrage, voting hours have been extended and will be from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. In news reports, Comelec said that “there are about 65.7 million locally registered voters and 1.69 million overseas voters for this year’s elections.”
Participants expressed appreciation for the activity and information presented that they deemed helpful in their work, such as: the new terminologies being used by COMELEC as those in the step-by-step demonstration and description of the voting process; the health protocols for the safety of the voters in relation to the ongoing pandemic situation; the guidelines and tips for personal safety of journalists reporting from a hostile environment; and the identification and status of places categorised by the Philippine Army as “areas of concern.” They also pointed out the need for continued information and training activities for media persons for them to remain up-to-date with the developments and with innovations in the media landscape, especially as the media has expanded into the cyberspace.
This activity is the third one resulting from a collaboration between the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, Inc. and of the Hanns Seidel Foundation since 2020. Held both in-person and online, it is the first project of the COPC Journalism Institute, which was formed on 12 February 2022 and will handle the press club’s training activities. Future activities for media practitioners focused on further capacitating media persons and keeping them informed of developments are in the pipeline. This activity was organised by the COPC through the COPC Journalism Institute, with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) as part of a project cooperation on civic journalism.