Solon urges Comelec to resolve ‘disorganized’ overseas voting

A party-list lawmaker on Monday asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to look into the “disorganized” voting system in Hong Kong.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said the government should not allow the potential massive disenfranchisement of overseas voters due to the “ineptitude and lack of proper organizing by these officials.”

“If they were aware of the ‘capacity limit’ of the venue beforehand, should they not have planned for that?” Did they not think of requesting for at least 10 VCMs [vote counting machines] similar to 2019 so as to quicken the voting process and lessen long queues, scheduling voters, extended hours during weekdays, among others?” said Gaite.

Around 1.7 million Filipinos voters abroad are expected to participate in the month-long activity, which started last April 10 and will end on May 9, 2022.

For her part, Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda said overseas Filipinos should take advantage of the opportunity to elect their next leaders, and to choose wisely.

Legarda said the Department of Foreign Affairs should see to it that registered overseas Filipino voters are adequately assisted as they cast their votes in Philippine embassies and consulates worldwide.

“I trust that our embassies and consulates worldwide will provide adequate assistance to almost 1.7 million registered Filipino overseas to ensure that the voting process will go smoothly. Let us help our ‘kababayan’ overseas as they exercise their right to take part in electing the leaders who they think will give them and their family the service and protection that they needed,” Legarda said.

Earlier, Comelec said logistical difficulties delayed the start of the overseas voting in six Philippine posts.

The Comelec-Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) said the issue affected the Philippine embassies in Wellington, New Zealand; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Dili Timor-Leste.

Also covered by the delays are the Philippine consulates in Shanghai, China; Milan, Italy; and New York, United States of America.

Last week, Comelec already announced that it would be deferring overseas absentee voting in Shanghai due to the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown imposed by the Chinese government in the city.

The poll body also said there will be delays in the voting in the Philippine posts in Baghdad, Tripoli, and Warsaw, Poland.

Sen. Imee: Extend OFW voting hours

SEN. Imee Marcos has called for extended office hours at Philippine embassies and consulates to ensure that OFWs can cast their votes in this year’s national elections.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation, warned that setbacks reported on the first day of voting in Hong Kong, the United States, Italy, and New Zealand may be replicated in other areas where large OFW populations are located.

“Let’s not wait for a last-minute scramble to implement remedies. Thousands of OFWs will end up being disenfranchised,” Marcos said.

“The immediate solution is to extend voting hours at our embassies and consulates, while the logistical challenges of setting up more voting precincts still have to be sorted out by the Comelec,” she added.

Marcos pointed out that government offices abroad did not have consistent voting hours, with some ending mid-afternoon and others extending into the night.

Long lines, the delayed shipment of election paraphernalia, and unreceived mail-in ballots are preventing many OFWs from voting.

Complaints reaching Marcos’s office from Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom also revealed that some OFWs still did not know where to vote or that the deadline for voter registration was already over.

“The Comelec and DFA must review the math of accommodating OFWs in different areas daily and within the one-month voting period allotted. It’s also not too late to ramp up an information campaign so that OFWs know their precinct assignments,” Marcos said.