The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will add five more precincts for overseas absentee voting (OAV) in Hong Kong to accommodate more Filipinos who wish to vote for Eleksyon 2022, Commissioner George Garcia said on Wednesday.
Garcia made the remark in a radio interview, following reports that some Filipino voters and Hong Kong authorities have called out the long lines of voters at the precincts amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong.
“Maaari pong magkaroon na tayo ng sampung presinto. Dati kasi nu'ng Linggo, limang presinto lamang. Ginagawan ng paraan ng ating overseas absentee voting committee, sa pangunguna ni Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, na gawin po itong sampu na presinto ang magke-cater sa ating mga kababayan,” he said.
(We can now have 10 precincts [in Hong Kong]. On Sunday, there were only five precincts. Our overseas absentee voting committee, led by Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, is working on making available these 10 precincts to cater to Filipino voters there.)
Garcia said the addition of more precincts will be ready in time for this coming Sunday wherein many Filipinos in Hong Kong have no work and may thus cast their votes.
“Sana nga po ‘yung ating Hong Kong authorities naman, ‘wag nilang itigil kaagad ‘yung pagboto. ‘Yan kasi ang naging dahilan din kung bakit kaagad na naudlot ‘yung pagboto ng ating kababayan,” he added.
(I hope the Hong Kong authorities do not stop the voting. That was also the reason why the voting of the Filipinos there was immediately disrupted.)
He also said that the OAV committee has already coordinated with the consulate in Hong Kong to produce the electoral boards that will man the additional precincts.
“Tignan po natin kung itong Linggo na ‘to ay magiging successful naman ang ating magiging botohan (let's see if the voting in Hong Kong will be successful this Sunday),” he said.
Garcia noted that there are around 93,000 Filipinos expected to participate in the OAV in Hong Kong.
On Sunday, April 10, the first day of OAV, the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong advised overseas Filipino voters to consider voting the next day, Monday, instead or another day because the limit has been reached for the day.
“Before giving its consent, one of the conditions set forth by the Hong Kong Government is strict compliance with anti-pandemic measures given that Hong Kong is in the midst of the Fifth Wave of the pandemic,” it said in an advisory.
“Thus, to ensure effective crowd control and compliance with anti-pandemic measures, the Consulate General upon the recommendation of the Hong Kong Police wishes to announce that today’s capacity to accept voters has reached its limit,” it added.
The consulate general also appealed to all employers to allow Filipinos to vote during weekdays when the volume of people is lower.
OAV in Italy
In Rome, Italy, an overseas Filipina earlier claimed that several overseas voters were not given a proper place inside the Philippine Embassy to fill out their ballots and even had to do so on the sidewalk of a hospital across the Embassy.
In response to this, Casquejo said they would verify the claims first with the Philippine Embassy in Rome and advise election officers there to provide a secure space for the completion and casting of election ballots.
‘All systems go’
Meanwhile, Garcia said all the OAV-related issues reported in some of their posts all over the world have already been settled.
“All systems go na po tayo. So far, hanggang kahapon sa monitoring natin, wala naman tayong nababalitaan na kahit na anong alingasngas o nagiging problema,” he said.
“Sa 92 posts natin sa buong mundo, maayos na po. Generally peaceful,” Garcia added.
(All systems go. So far, until yesterday during our monitoring, we have not heard of any problems. All of our 92 posts around the world are good. It is generally peaceful.)
In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, there had been a circulating post on social media about a supposed pre-shaded ballot found by a voter on Sunday, April 10, the first day of overseas voting for the 2022 elections.
The Philippine Consulate General’s Office (PCGO) in Dubai has refuted the reports, stressing that poll watchers from at least five different political parties present during the entire voting period likewise witnessed or reported no irregularity.
Garcia also said on Tuesday that the Comelec will consider such claims on alleged pre-shading of ballots in Dubai as fake news until it has received reports from officials.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Singapore has also denied handing out pre-shaded ballots to Filipino voters during the start of the overseas voting.
The embassy however acknowledged “an isolated 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 the 2022 elections.
Filipino voters who applied for the overseas voting option can cast their ballots until May 9, 2022, or Election Day in the Philippines. —KG, GMA News