Friday, April 9, 2010

31 voting days for overseas Filipinos begin on Saturday

04/09/2010 | 12 MN

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has urged registered Filipino voters based overseas to exercise their right and participate in the overseas absentee voting (OAV) for the 2010 elections, scheduled to start on Saturday.

“The overseas Filipinos are our new heroes. Beyond the economic contributions and the sacrifices they do to ensure their families of a good life, they are now also given their political right through the OAV. It is time that they exercise the right to vote," DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said in a statement posted on the department’s website. Seguis also serves as chair of the OAV Secretariat.

OAV Secretaruat vice-chair Nestor Padalhin likewise assured the public that this year’s OAV will be “honest, orderly and peaceful."

31 days of voting

There are 589,830 overseas voters for the May 2010 elections certified by the Resident Election Registration Board of the Comelec. These voters will be casting or sending in their votes in the 93 Philippine Embassies and Consulates General around the world.

The OAV will last for 31 days starting April 10 at 8:00 a.m. (designated country time) until May 10 at 6:00 p.m., the DFA said.

Daily voting schedules will thus be at least eight hours a day, it added, and Embassies and Consulates General may adopt a flexible schedule to accommodate the most number of voters.
(See: RP posts in Singapore, HK change work hours for OAV)

All votes, including those sent through the mail, should be received by the end of the voting period.

"Our Embassies and Consulates General are well-prepared to conduct the overseas absentee voting process. Our personnel have undergone a three-day training in Manila last February to prepare them for their duties in this election," Seguis said.

He added similar trainings in Los Angeles, Madrid, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Hong Kong and Singapore were also held as part of preparations for the elections

Voting for national positions

Overseas voters may only elect the President, Vice President, 12 senators and one party-list representative.

The OAV involves three modes of voting: automated counting in Hong Kong and Singapore, personal voting, and postal voting.

The DFA thus reminded voters of the automated and personal modes of voting to bring their passports or other personal identification documents.

In the automated mode, voters will have their names verified against the list of registered voters by the Special Board of Election Inspectors, similar to the process in the Philippines.

Voters will be given a ballot, a folder and a pen, and will then be directed to the voting area.

Candidates’ names will be listed in alphabetical order on the ballot, and voters will have to shade the ovals beside the names of their chosen candidates.

The ballot will then be fed into the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine which will read the votes on both sides of the ballot.

The voters’ index finger will be marked with indelible ink, and they will affix their thumb mark in the list of voters.

The same process goes for personal voting, except that a compartment will be provided for voters to drop their ballots in.

Postal voters

Postal voters meanwhile will receive a mailing packet containing their ballot and the ballot envelope.

They will have to accomplish the ballot, affix their right thumb mark at the lower portion, tear off that portion and place it inside the ballot envelope.

Before sending their ballots back by mail to their respective Embassies or Consulates General, voters will have to affix their name and signature on the left-hand corner of the ballot envelopes.

An illustrated instruction on postal voting can be found here.

Registered Filipino seafarers may likewise personally vote at the Embassy or Consulate General where they are currently docked.

Votes will be counted at the Embassy or Consulate General where the votes were sent or cast.

The DFA said the counting will start immediately after the close of polling precincts, and will be done uninterrupted in public until all the votes have been counted.

‘Elect pro-migrant leaders’

In line with the start of the OAV, a migrants’ rights group will organize on Friday a gathering in Manila of relatives of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to encourage their loved ones abroad to exercise and guard their right to vote in the month-long OAV.

Migrante International said in a release the OAV is one opportunity for OFWs to elect candidates that will secure the welfare and protection of migrant workers and their families.

“Be sure to vote and vote for progressive and pro-migrant candidates and party-lists that will truly advance the interests of migrant workers and their families, and encourage fellow OFWs to do the same," the group said.

Migrante likewise urged OFWs to derail attempts of party-list groups alleged to be backed by MalacaƱang to create a House of Representatives that will keep President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power.

Rumors abound that Arroyo, who is seeking a Congressional seat in the second district of Pampanga, is gunning for the House Speakership.

“(OFWs should also) guard their votes by reporting and exposing cases of disenfranchisement and irregularities in the conduct of the OAV," the group added.

In line with this, the group is set to launch a hotline through which OFWs can course reports of electoral fraud and other inquiries.—JV. GMANews.TV

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