LAWMAKERS on Wednesday questioned the layout of the ballots used in the recent midterm elections which placed the list of party-list groups on the back.

They cited the design of the ballot as a possible reason why around 20 incumbent party-list groups in the 17th Congress were not able to land a spot in the next 18th Congress.

“If I’m not mistaken, 27 million total votes for party-list elections out of 63 billion registered voters. Sobrang bagsak ‘yung boto sa party-lists compared nu’ng 2016 elections (The votes for party-lists really declined compared with [the results of] the 2016 elections), and that caused millions of disenfranchisement sa aming (among our) constituencies,” Ako-Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo A. Garbin Jr. said at a press conference at the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The Commission on Elections proclaimed 51 winners in the party-list elections, with the top two party-list groups getting three seats, while six other organizations got two seats each and 43 other groups got one seat each.

AGRI Party-List Rep. Orestes T. Salon said, for his part, “I’m not sour-graping, but in 2016 we had more than 800,000 votes, but this 2019 we only had 133,000 votes. I don’t know what happened to us.”

Other groups that failed to keep their seats in Congress are Akbayan and Makabayan bloc member Anakpawis.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said he will still verify the layout of the ballots for the 2010 and 2013 elections. But he acknowledged that party-list groups were on the front of the 2016 ballot.

Nevertheless, Mr. Jimenez said teachers who acted as election board members were trained and informed of the proper protocol. “Sa training ng Comelec nagbigay kami ng information sa kanila na ang balota ay two-sided (We informed them that the ballots are two-sided during our training). So we expected that the teachers themselves were able to give these instructions.”

He added: “The problem is if you are looking at the partylist election, it (is) surprising that you will not look at both sides of the ballot and assume that there was no party-list component yung balota (on the ballot).”

For his part, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting board member Arwin A. Serrano said the Comelec already announced to the public last February the layout of the ballots.

“‘Yung ballot face po ng ating balota, as early as February nailabas na po ‘yan ng Comelec. So alam na po ‘yan ng ating pong general public, ‘yung likod, du’n nakalagay po ‘yung ating party-list,” he said. (Comelec already conveyed this information to the public last February. So the general public already knew that the party-list groups are placed on the back). — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras