THE NATIONAL Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) on Monday expressed confidence that voter turnout for this year’s elections would exceed the 81% level from 2016.

“That’s expected,” Namfrel Chairman Augusto Lagman said in an interview.

The election watchdog’s observers reported that in most election centers, voting took five minutes to an hour, though the average was probably 20 minutes.

Most election centers allowed as many as 10 voters inside at a time. More than 65 million Filipinos have registered to vote.

Many voters ended up ignoring social distancing because of the high turnout amid a coronavirus pandemic.

Many voting centers were overwhelmed, which led to their inability to enforce health protocols, especially physical distancing and wearing of face masks, Namfrel said.

Voters’ temperatures were also not consistently checked at the entrance.

The long queues were a “good sign,” Management Association of the Philippines President Alfredo E. Pascual said in a mobile phone message. “That’s good, indicating a high turnout of voters and making the results more reflective of the will of our people.”

“We applaud Filipinos for exercising their right to vote as well as remaining vigilant in this monumental moment,” European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) President Lars Wittig said.

“We stand ready to work with the incoming set of government leaders in shaping a more inclusive and sustainable growth story for the Philippines.”

Investors expect to see credible elections “because that has happened in the past,” British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Director Chris Nelson said. “What they are really looking for is after the elections are over, whoever wins, that the policy is continued.”

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told reporters in a Viber message they were monitoring the situation to determine if a new coronavirus infection forecast was needed.

“We have updated projections for the end of May, assumed a 30% to 50% reduction in minimum public health standards,” she said in mixed English and Filipino.

“Namfrel will continue observing the different processes of the elections throughout the day and week, and will release another update soon covering the afternoon voting, counting, transmission of results and canvassing,” it said in a statement.

“NAMFREL will submit to Comelec a more comprehensive report with recommendations after it has gathered all observations from the field,” it added. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Revin Mikhael D. Ochave