Saturday, May 8, 2010

Overseas vote turnout still at 20% as voting ends in 3 days


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Three days before the month-long overseas absentee voting (OAV) ends, turnout remains at a low 20% of almost 600,000 voters as of morning of Friday.

Of the registered 589,830 overseas Filipino voters, only 118,053 have cast their votes as of 9:00 am of May 7, according to a release posted on the Web site of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

While the figure has surpassed the 16% overseas voter turnout in 2007, which did not involve a presidential contest, it is still a far cry from the 65% turnout recorded in the 2004 presidential elections, which was a tightly-contested race between incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the late King of Filipino Movies, Fernando Poe Jr.

The DFA-OAV Secretariat reported the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) in Hong Kong still has the highest number of voters at 33,619, followed by the Philippine Embassies in Riyadh (8,969) and Singapore (7,384).

Other foreign service posts with the highest turnout are the PCG in Jeddah (5,714); the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Al Khobar (4,069); the Embassy in Kuwait (3,963); the PCG in in Los Angeles (3,148); the Embassy in Abu Dhabi (2,703); the PCG in Dubai (2,527); and the PCG in New York (2,392).

Only Hong Kong and Singapore are using the automated election system, to be used throughout the Philippines for the first time on May 10, while voting for the rest of the Philippine diplomatic posts across the world employs postal and personal voting.

Despite the low turnout, Philippine officials remain hopeful that the remaining days will see a surge in the number of Filipinos who will cast their votes until May 10, when overseas voting will officially end.

“We are expecting more voters to come in or mail their ballots in the next three days. Our Embassies and Consulates General are well-prepared to receive the expected large number of voters who will cast their votes, even at the last minute," DFA undersecretary and OAV Secretariat chair Rafael Seguis said in a statement.

He said efforts were made in the various Philippine posts to encourage more voters to participate in the OAV.

Seguis cited the Philippine Embassy in Washington and the Consulate General in New York, which came out with statements urging registered voters to go out and vote.

The Embassies in Tel Aviv and Pretoria meanwhile are coordinating with the members of the Filipino communities there to encourage their members to cast their ballots.

In San Francisco, Consul General Mariano Paynor has appeared in media-sponsored forums to encourage Filipinos there to go out and vote.

The Embassy in Kuala Lumpur likewise conducted information drives on how to fill out their ballots.

Embassies and Consulates General are open over the weekend and on election day on Monday, May 10, to accept voters and mailed-in ballots.

The deadline for receipt of mailed ballots for postal voting and casting of ballots for personal and automated modes of voting is on May 10 at 6:00 p.m. Philippine time.

Low turnout in HK

As this developed, a Filipino group in Hong Kong scored the Consulate there and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for the alleged irregularities and the hundreds of voters who were unable to vote as their names were missing on the voters’ list.

In another statement, Gabriela Women Party-HK said there was a lack of voter education for this year’s polls, resulting in the low turnout in the Chinese special administrative region.

While it continues to be the highest among the Philippine posts, turnout in Hong Kong is only at 35% of the 95,355 registered Filipino voters there.

In the 2004 presidential elections, about 65,000 Filipinos or about 66% of the registered voters voted in Hong Kong.

“Similar inactions characterized the 2004 and 2007 OAV and it was only through the efforts of migrants’ organizations that the turnout was raised. There was not enough budget allocated for education and information and insufficient effort to encourage OFWs to vote," said Gabriela chair Cynthia Abdon-Tellez.

She also cited cases of hundreds of overseas Filipino workers whose names were missing even as they were able to vote in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

“With only a few days left for the OAV, all signs say that less than 50% of registered voters in Hong Kong will be able to vote. Thousands of OFWs have again been disenfranchised in this election no matter how many times the COMELEC tries to deny it and cover up its irresponsibility," Tellez declared.

In a separate interview, Vice Consul Val Roque said they are nevertheless hoping to reach the turnout recorded in 2004 when the OAV ends on May 10.

He also confirmed there are about 500 voters who went to the polling centers but were unable to find their names.

“We wrote to COMELEC about these voters’ concerns, and we were given proof that these voters did not participate in the 2004 and 2007 elections," Roque told GMANew.TV.

He, however, confirmed there are cases where voters registered in Hong Kong but were listed as voters in other countries.

“There’s more that needs to be done with the voters’ list," Roque added.—JV, GMANews.TV

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