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No-shows mark absentee voting; poll chief picks 9


EARLY VOTING Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. and Commissioner Grace Padaca show the ink on their index fingers after they cast their votes on the second day of the three-day local absentee voting period for the May 13 midterm elections at the Comelec office in Intramuros, Manila, on Monday. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

Although only 12 Senate seats are at stake in next month’s midterm elections, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. listed down the names of 23 candidates.

Then he cut down the list to 12 names to match the vacancies in the Senate.

But when his turn to vote early came on Monday, Brillantes voted for only nine candidates.

“What happened?” reporters asked him at Comelec headquarters.

“I wasn’t convinced about their qualifications,” Brillantes said, referring to the three candidates he had stricken off his list.

As for the nine he voted for, he said he knew them personally.

Of the nine candidates who won the election chief’s nod, three belonged to the administration Team PNoy, three to the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, and three were independent candidates.

He did not disclose their names. He voted for a party list, but also did not say which of the more than 130 party-list groups it was.

Having performed his civic duty, Brillantes reminded voters registered for the absentee balloting that they have only until Tuesday to vote.

Among the absentee voters are 575 journalists who registered to vote early, as they will be assigned to far-flung places on Election Day, May 13.

Fifty-five journalists voted on Sunday, the start of the three-day absentee balloting.

Not voting

But neither absentee voter nor registered voter is the Comelec’s press officer, James Jimenez, who admitted last week that he had been “deactivated.”

That means he did not vote in the last two elections—in 2010 and in 2007.

To be able to vote again, Jimenez must register with the Comelec, from where he has been so busy advising voters on election matters that he had forgotten to handle his own electoral affairs.

Brillantes said he was disappointed with the turnout at the absentee voting for journalists.

“Didn’t election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who represented the media in petitioning the Comelec to allow absentee voting for journalists, say that about 500,000 people from the industry would benefit from the privilege?

“So why did only 575 register for it, and when the big day came, only 55 voted?

“Well, maybe more will come to vote today,” Brillantes said.

“You know how it is with Filipinos, they scramble at the last minute,” he added.

Until this year, only government officials and employees, teachers, policemen and soldiers assigned to faraway places on Election Day were allowed to vote early.

After arguing for years that they, too, should be allowed to vote early, journalists finally managed to lobby for the privilege this year. And won it.

Whether the rest of the 575 who signed up to vote early will turn up and cast ballots on Tuesday will not be known until Wednesday.

Comelec records showed that only 12,732 voters registered for local absentee voting for this year’s elections.

The figure is lower than the 30,000 recorded for the May 2010 elections.

Reports said 355 policemen in Eastern Visayas cast absentee ballots on Monday.

Senior Supt. Roel Acidre, chief of the Police Community Relations Office in Eastern Visayas, said 283 of the early voters were from the Regional Public Safety Battalion based in Capoocan town, Leyte province.

The rest were from other police offices in the region.

Disappointing turnout

Election officer Danilo Cullo said absentee voting was held in four places in Davao City but the turnout was disappointing.

Cullo said 13 journalists cast absentee ballots.

He could not say how many other absentee voters came to vote. He said only a few came because most voters preferred to vote on Election Day.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported that 1,643 more Filipinos in Saudi Arabia have cast overseas absentee ballots for the May 13 elections, bringing to 5,289 the total of early ballots cast in the Middle East kingdom since early balloting started a week ago.

The Comelec listed the Middle East (281,372) as the region with the highest number of overseas absentee voters worldwide, followed by Asia (228,309), Americas (125,604) and Europe (75,666).

A total of 26,808 seafarers have also cast overseas absentee votes, the Comelec said.—With reports from Jerry E. Esplanada in Manila; Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas; and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

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Tags: absentee voting , Elections , Media , Philippines , Sixto Brillantes

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