Probe absentee voting mess, 2 senators ask Comelec | Inquirer News

Probe absentee voting mess, 2 senators ask Comelec

Filipino workers in Hong Kong cue for their turn to cast their vote on the first day of the overseas absentee voting held at the Bayanihan, Kennedy Town Centre, Hongkong. Image from the Consul General Raly Tejada / Facebook

Filipino workers in Hong Kong cue for their turn to cast their vote on the first day of the overseas absentee voting held at the Bayanihan, Kennedy Town Centre, Hongkong. Image from the Consul General Raly Tejada / Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — Two senators on Monday called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate the alleged disorder that marred the first day of absentee voting abroad, mainly in Hong Kong.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said the Comelec should tweak its policies and instructions to its personnel and put in place an immediate solution to improve the current system.


“My heart goes out to those (overseas Filipino workers or OFWs) who were ready to vote but had to be turned back and would have to return to cast their vote,” Pimentel said.


But Pimentel expressed optimism that the Comelec still has enough time to remedy the situation.

Sen. Imee Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on electoral reforms, suggested that the Comelec extend voting hours at Philippine embassies and consulates to ensure that OFWs are able to cast their votes.

The Comelec earlier admitted that the start of the monthlong overseas absentee voting in five Philippine foreign posts was delayed due to problems in the shipping of election materials. These are the Philippine embassies in Wellington, New Zealand; Islamabad, Pakistan, and Dili, Timor-Leste, as well as in the Philippine consulates general in Milan, Italy, and in New York.

On Monday, however, Election Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, who is in charge of overseas voting, said these “logistical issues” would be resolved soon.

He said five more vote-counting machines (VCM) would be deployed to the consulate in Hong Kong to bring the total number of machines to 10 to accommodate the huge turnout there.

He said VCMs would arrive soon in the consulates in New York, Wellington, and Milan, although the ballots have already been sent by post to the registered voters.


The election materials for 564 voters registered with the embassy in Islamabad held up by Pakistan customs were expected to be released the same day, according to Casquejo.

He said the election materials for the embassy in Timor-Leste with 706 voters would be deployed upon the next flight availability, which is expected on Thursday.

Also on Monday, Philippine Consul General in New York Elmer Cato said boxes containing election paraphernalia had arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, from Alaska.

Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Gary Domingo also said in a Twitter post that boxes containing ballots for the elections had arrived at the Philippine Embassy in Wellington.


Meanwhile, Migrante International lamented that out of the 93,000 registered voters in Hong Kong, only 35,000 to 40,000 might be able to vote if the number of VCMs remained at five.

It pointed out that most OFWs could vote only on Sundays.

During the first day of overseas absentee voting on Sunday, only 3,285 OFWs were able to cast their votes compared to 6,000 to 7,000 who were accommodated in one Sunday during previous elections when there were 10 VCMs in use, the group said.

In Dubai, Migrante said there were long lines of voters waiting two and a half to five hours to vote because of the small polling precinct at the Dubai consulate.

In Saudi Arabia, no indelible ink was available after voting, Migrante said, citing reports to the group.

Migrante said they also received reports of delays in ballot distribution in Japan and in Bologna and Milan, Italy.

“Voters who went to their consulates in person were told ballots have not arrived yet,” the group said.

Senator Marcos said her office also received complaints of disorder in the conduct of overseas voting in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

The Philippine Embassy in Singapore on Monday, likewise, confirmed an incident wherein a “spoiled” ballot was “inadvertently and unintentionally” given to a voter.

The embassy stressed that it was an isolated incident.

Election Commissioner George Garcia downplayed claims that some overseas voters received pre-shaded ballots at the start of the overseas voting.

“Don’t believe claims of pre-shading (of ballots). It’s very easy to find out if that’s true,” Garcia said in a media briefing at the Comelec headquarters on Monday.

Garcia also dismissed claims that exit polls conducted in Hong Kong showed that a certain candidate was leading.

He said the Comelec could not ban exit polls since these have been upheld by the Supreme Court.

“But if the exit polls will undermine the integrity of the entire process, then that will be subject to investigation” of the Comelec task force against fake news, said Garcia, who heads the task force.


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Overseas voting for May 9 polls off to a bad start

TAGS: #VotePH2022, Comelec, Imee Marcos

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