Philippines election directions available on 'Net, SMS

No less than 40 million Filipinos are expected to troop to their respective polling centers on Monday to exercise their right of suffrage. It is no surprise, then, that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) expects traffic -- both vehicular and human -- to be heavy in these polling precincts.

To minimize the confusion in what historically is a chaotic scenario, the Comelec, together with a number of non-government agencies (NGAs), has developed FindPrecinct.com A Web- and SMS-based service designed to guide Filipino voters to their designated polling precincts, FindPrecinct.com allows the voting public to independently verify way before Election Day where they should go to cast their vote.

"Aside from deciding who to vote on Election Day, one other question foremost in the Filipino voter's mind is: 'Where will I vote?' We thought that if we could tell a voter what precinct and polling center he or she must proceed to, we can streamline the entire process of vote-casting," said Philip 'Popoy' Juico, dean of the De La Salle Graduate School of Business, one of the proponents of FindPrecinct, said.

According to Juico, through FindPrecinct, voters can check, long before May 10, if they are still in the Comelec's Voters List (CVL), as well as their specific precinct number and polling center. In addition, this voters' search engine can provide a location map of the polling center in case the voter does not know where it is.

FindPrecinct.com is a public service facility first used during the 2001 local elections. The project is a collaborative effort of the Comelec, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), MIC Holdings Corporation, and Cybersoft Integrated Geoinformatics Inc.

"I believe this facility will not only make voting easier for the public, it'll also minimize incidents of cheating and disenfranchisement," said Juico. "Not having the means of easily and transparently validating whether a voter rightfully belongs to a voting precinct or not has often led to voter disenfranchisement, and to a certain extent, electoral fraud," he noted.

On its initial rollout in 2001, FindPrecinct was able to map more than 8.2 million voter records in 43 cities across the country. For this year's elections, 30 million voters are already included in the FindPrecinct master list.

Locating one's polling precinct through FindPrecinct.com takes only three simple steps. First, log on to the Web site at www.findprecinct.com; second, key in the required information -- the voter's complete name and date of birth; third, click "Submit." After clicking on the "Submit" button, the map of the polling center will appear on the screen along with the precinct number, precinct address, and the municipality.

However, considering that the majority of Filipinos does not have access to the Internet, FindPrecinct has partnered with mobile telecommunication firms Globe Telecom Inc., Smart Communications Inc., and Digitel Mobile Philippines Inc., the company behind the Sun Cellular brand, to make the service accessible through mobile phones. Juico said these telecom companies are set to make the announcements for their respective FindPrecinct services soon.

All data included in the FindPrecinct master list were coursed through the Comelec's Management Information Service (MIS) unit, since FindPrecinct does not have direct access to the poll body's database.

Only relevant information vital to the search engine service of FindPrecinct -- such as the voters' complete names and birth dates -- were extracted and turned over to FindPrecinct. The data were then stored in RDBMS running on a Unix-based server. Permission and user access levels were also set to ensure that the list can not be updated or deleted by unauthorized parties.

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