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PH overseas voting begins

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by April 9, 2016 General

Despite issuing the general instruction at the last minute before the start of a month-long overseas absentee voting, the Commission on Elections was able to conduct  a smooth voting exercise among 1.3 million Filipinos working and living abroad.

In a press conference, Comelec chairman Andres Bautista expressed confidence that the voter turnout for the overseas Filipino workers will have a greater number than the 16.11 percent or 118,823 figures in 2013.

“The turnout in 2013 was only 16.11 percent and again this is one of the key performance indicators and  result areas by which we will measure the success of elections. And we are hoping to increase the 16 percent turnout,” Bautista told the reporters yesterday.

During the first  day of the month-long automated OAV, Bautista said the Comelec and the Philippine embassies were able to open the voting period at exactly 8 o’clock and were able to print voter’s receipt among 30 posts that are set to conduct an automated polls.

“The first post that started the voting was in Wellington, New Zealand,” the poll chief said.

Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim  who heads the OAV office  was able to cast his vote at  the Philippine Embassy in Hong Kong around 8:40 a.m.

In an online interview, 30-year-old Bien Canilao, an OFW in Singapore,  was among the first to  have voted saying that the process has gone on  smoothly so far.

“The election here in Singapore is smooth, hassle-free, and efficient,” Canilao said, adding that the Board of Election Inspectors were courteous and straightforward in giving them instructions.

He   said that the printing of voter’s receipt was accurately executed.

“I was told to feed the ballot into the machine and after a few seconds the machine will print the receipt and you will be asked [by the BEIs] to verify if the names printed are correct,” Canilao said who cast his vote for president, vice president, senators and partylist organization at the Philippine Embassy in Nasim Road, Singapore.

Canilao added that they were five in the polling precinct when he voted at noon but other OFWs started to come in.

Lawyer  Ma. Victoria Florido, chief of staff of Comelec Comissioner Arthur Lim, said they expected  the number of OFWs   to increase on Sunday  when majority of Filipinos  take their dayoff.

“Usual day off ng mga kababayan abroad is Sunday so we are expecting a larger turnout on Sunday,” Florido said.

Bautista said they have deployed technical support teams to various posts where BEIs and Comelec staff can call or  email through skype any technical difficulties that they may encounter.

The poll chief also encouraged all Filipinos working and residing abroad to take advantage of the 30-day OAV election.

“We recognize the large impact that the overseas Filipinos play in our economy so they deserve to be heard and we would like to hear what they think in respect to who we should elect as our leaders in 2016,” he added.

Bautista disclosed that even at the last-minute, the poll body  encountered challenges.

He said authorities of   Saudi Arabia in Al Khobar that will cater to  33,000 registered voters  refused to let the school building be used for the Philippine election for OAV.

“Ambassador Tago  was able to convince the  Saudi authorities that’s why we   were able fo fix  the problem and use the school facility for the election,” Bautista said.

Bautista said that it was about some “bureaucratic issue”. At least 30 posts will be utilizing the vote counting machines. 

The 30 posts include Agana, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, Ottawa, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington, London, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Osaka, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait, Manama, Al Khobar, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv.

A total of 26 posts will be using the personal manual voting system, or the manual casting of votes in the designated polling precincts.

They are Lisbon, Bangkok, Brunei, Chongqing, Dhaka, Dili, Guangzhou, Islamabad, Jakarta, Macau, Manado, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Taipei, New Delhi, Phnom Penh, Shanghai, Vientiane, Xiamen, Abuja, Amman, Cairo, Muscat, Nairobi, Pretoria, and Tehran.

Another 26 posts overseas will adopt the postal manual voting system, wherein the ballots will be mailed directly to the registered voter, who will then mail it back to the polling center after accomplishing it.

These are Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Mexico, Santiago, Ankara, Athens, Berlin, Berne, Brussels, Budapest, Geneva, Holy See, Moscow, Oslo, Paris, Prague, The Hague, Vienna, Warsaw, Beijing, Canberra, Hanoi, Port Moresby, Sydney, Wellington, and Yangon.

As for the Philippine posts in Baghdad, Damascus, and Tripoli, there will be no elections to be conducted due to prevailing conflicts in the said areas.

Instead, the Comelec—OFOV said they will be allowed to cast their votes in adjacent Philippine posts.

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