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Philippine Embassy in Singapore says spoiled ballot ‘isolated incident’

The Philippine Embassy in Singapore has denied handing out pre-shaded ballots, but acknowledged that a spoiled ballot had been "inadvertently" given to one voter.

“It has come to the attention of the Philippine embassy that some unverified sources allege that pre-shaded ballots have been given to voters who came to the embassy to cast their vote today. This is not true,”  the embassy said in a post on its Facebook page on Monday, after Facebook user Cheryl Ab, a Filipino in Singapore, said that she received a pre-shaded ballot from the embassy.

The embassy acknowledged an incident in which it “inadvertently” and “unintentionally” gave out a spoiled ballot that had been from the voting on April 10, the first day of overseas voting for Eleksyon 2022.

The embassy said the incident was subsequently recorded officially in the minutes of voting for AES Voting Posts.

The embassy stressed that what happened was “an isolated incident.”

“The embassy assures the public that it is totally committed to provide a system of honest and orderly overseas absentee voting that upholds the integrity of the voting process,” it said.

In an update, Ab said that she reported the incident to a poll watcher and that the spoiled ballot was marked void.

No report received, says Comelec

In a news briefing conducted before the Philippine Embassy released its statement, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it had not received any reports on the issue.

“Wala po kaming natanggap na report kahit saan ating post sa kahit na kaninong opisyal doon sa Singapore. Therefore, fake news po iyon,” Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said.

(We have not received a report anywhere in our post from any official in Singapore. Therefore, that is fake news.)

“Sa ating mga kababayan, huwag na huwag ninyo pong paniniwalaan ‘yung mga pre-shading na sinasabi. Napakadali pong malaman 'yan at makita. ‘Yung mismong nasa post, ‘yung lahat po ng watchers and observers na present sa lahat ng polling places kung nasaan ang ating pagboto madali pong i-report ‘yun,” he added.

(To our countrymen, please do not believe the pre-shading of ballots. It would be easy to see it. It's easy to report to all the watchers and observers present at all the polling sites where our voting takes place.)

The commissioner added that the Task Force Against Fake News will convene later today to discuss reports of the pre-shaded ballots.

“Akala po kasi hindi naming sila mahahanap. Tatandaan po natin National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police-Cyber Crime Division (PNP) at Cybercrime Division ay kaya nilang ma-trace ang lahat ng ‘yan [They thought we couldn't find them. But remember, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police, and the Cybercrime Division can trace all of that]. Whether you are inside the country or outside of the country,” Garcia stressed.

Absentee voting for Filipinos abroad was introduced in 2004.

For the 2022 National Elections, Philippine Foreign Service posts have been authorized to implement one of the following modes of voting: Automated Election, Personal/Manual Voting, Postal Voting, and Modified Postal Voting. — BM, GMA News