Filipino mediapersons participate in the mock elections held on Saturday at the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai. Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
DUBAI: Mock elections, in which Filipinos in Dubai and the Northern Emirates and accredited media took part, in relation to the month-long overseas absentee voting (OAV) electoral process for the one-day Manila’s Mid-Term (General and Local) Elections on May 13, Monday, were held at the Rizal Hall of the Philippine Consulate General in Al Qusais, Dubai (PCGDXB) on Saturday morning.
It was part of the Philippines’ Commission on Elections (Comelec)-instituted “final testing and sealing” or FTS of 11 automated voting counting machines (VCMs).
The elections body had determined that there must be 11 polling precincts equivalent to 11 VCMs at the diplomatic mission to serve the 209,862 qualified and registered Filipinos voters residing in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes presided over the oath-taking/ allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines of the 55 officers and men of the diplomatic mission and volunteers prior to the FTS.
The oath-takers pledged to safeguard the integrity of the OAV and to secure the votes or the election returns (ERs).
Cortes reiterated what he had stated in his invitation to the public and the media regarding the FTS. He said this is intrinsic to the electoral procedures for transparency purposes. It is to evidence that all the VCMs are functioning properly, all votes are encoded well, and the consequent ERs counted properly.
“This is to erase any doubt,” he said.
Part of the FTS was the simultaneous opening of all the elections paraphernalia. This include the Comelec-authorized ballots bearing in alphabetized manner all the 62 senatorial candidates and all the contending 134 party-list representatives, and black markers for shading.
The initializing and diagnostics testing of the VCMs were carried out from 10:49am (2:49pm Philippine time according to the VCM digital clock) to 11:20am (3:20pm Philippine time).
Gulf Today participated thrice at three different polling precincts or VCMs for the mock elections.
All her 12 senatorial and one party-list representative bets were properly encoded based on all three automated print outs from the three polling precincts or VCMs.
In reality, voters are entitled to one-time voting. Those who attempt to vote more than once would be penalized for “fly-voting” as per Comelec rules.
Dubai resident/overseas absentee voter since the May 2016 presidential elections Roy Silvano commended the PCGDXB people and volunteers for knowing the FTS procedure. He expressed hope for an orderly and peaceful OAV.
A participant who shaded two party-list representative bets had his vote invalidated. The VCM blinked he had over-voted for the party-list representative contests.
During the exercise, several reminders were announced regarding under-voting and over-voting. It is acceptable to under-vote. However, any more than 12 shades for the senatorial candidates or any more than one shade for the party-list representatives would automatically invalidate the ballot.
As experienced, it is much better that all registered voters double check their names at the Comelec Certified List of Voters (CLOV) before going to the PCGDXB beginning April 13 to May 13 to exercise their right to suffrage. The CLOV could be accessed over the PCGDXB and Comelec websites.
The mock counting of the ERs had not started yet as of press time.
According to Cortes, the FTS with the mock elections for the 2016 OAV presidential and national elections ran for 11 hours.
The Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi carried out the same FTS procedures on Saturday.
Nearly 320 seats in the two-chamber legislature and more than 17,000 local government positions, from 81 provincial governors to more than 1,500 municipal councillors, will be contested nationwide.
The race for the Senate’s 12 vacant seats is seen as a of referendum on President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency since June 2016, said Earl Parreno of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms.
Qualified voters for the April 13 to May 13 Philippine mid-term (legislative/general) elections from the UAE are at 318,862 of the total 1,789,823 overseas Filipinos absentee voters (OFAVs) registered with Manila’s Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Business and consular services will continue at the two Philippine diplomatic missions in the UAE during the 29-day overseas absentee voting (OAV), beginning April 13, Saturday, in relation to the Manila May 13 general-local elections.
Some of the 318,992 registered Filipinos voters in the UAE for Manila’s mid-term elections took advantage of the first day-weekend April 13 to May 13 overseas voting (OV) on Saturday.
The Philippine Consulate General in Al Qusais, Dubai (PCGDXB) has two polling precincts operational until 9 p.m. to accommodate registered Filipino voters who only have evenings as their opportunity to exercise their right to suffrage for Manila’s May 13 mid-term (legislative/general/local) elections.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, attended a wedding reception in Ras Al Khaimah.
Egypt’s state news agency said expats have started voting on constitutional amendments that would allow President Abdel-Fatah Al Sisi to stay in power until 2030.
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, inaugurated the debut edition of “Azyan” Exhibition and Conference at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC), in Sharjah on Thursday. The beauty, fashion and wellness event will run till April 21.