Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
DUBAI: Philippine Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes has issued a warning to Filipinos in Dubai and the Northern Emirates regarding the spread of fake news on the upcoming April 13 to May 13 overseas absentee voting (OAV).
The month-long electoral process is being held for the sixth time after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law on Feb.13, 2003 the Overseas Absentee Voting Act passed by the bicameral Congress on Feb.4, 2003. For the May 13, 2019 Philippine general/local elections, 1,789,823 overseas Filipinos absentee voters registered with Manila’s Commission on Elections—318,862 of which are UAE residents—have the privilege to exercise their right to suffrage. “Spreading fake news like the suspension of the OAV is punishable by law,” Cortes said.
“All election-related news must only come from the Philippine Consulate General,” Vice Consul/OAV In-Charge Marianne Bringas also said.
Cortes and Bringas announced the elections-related prohibitions when they held a press conference with Deputy Consul General Renato Duenas Jr. and Vice Consul Elizabeth Picar Ramos, on the sidelines of the final testing and sealing of the 11 automated vote counting machines at the diplomatic mission address in Al Qusais, Dubai on Saturday.
Aside from propagating fake news, Bringas enumerated the following acts as disallowed in accordance with the Philipines’ Omnibus Election Code (Batas Pambansa 881): defacement of any of the election materials and paraphernalia, fly voting or the attempt to cast vote more than once, proxy vote or the attempt to cast vote other than the registered voter, peeping into the ballot of a voter, taking a photograph of a completed ballot and taking a photograph of a completed ballot and consequently flashing this for public viewing, vote buying and influencing voters at the polling precincts or electioneering.
Voters must have their mobile phones switched off at the polling precincts. They are advised to write down on a paper the list of their senatorial and party-list representative bets.
Bringas said anyone proven to commit any of these acts will have his right to suffrage forfeited, will be disqualified to run for public office, and shall face jail time of between one and six years.
Saying the OAV and the Philippine Mid-Term (General/Legislative/Local) Elections as “beyond religion and beyond any political leanings,” Cortes requested his kababayans (countrymen) in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujeirah to observe and keep the process “noble, clean and controversy-free.”
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