Filipinos in Dubai and the Northern Emirates cast their votes. Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
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.
Meanwhile, according to a 5.30pm press statement from the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi (AUHPE), Manila’s Commission on Elections (Comelec) had allowed the diplomatic mission and the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai (PCGDXB) to accommodate voters on the Philippine and Christian holidays of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, April 18 and 19 respectively, “due to the demand of some of our fellow Filipinos.”
Early on, Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn Quintana commended her countrymen for “exercising their right as (Philippine) citizens.”
She said: “Voting was off to a good start. Voting in all precincts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai started on time; all Comelec-deputised personnel were at their stations performing their functions in accordance with the rules on the proper conduct of elections; volunteers from Filipino Community organisations were on hand to help in maintaining order and efficient voting. Voters came streaming in fairly manageable numbers. Overall, I would say it is another proud moment for the Filipinos in the UAE as they came together for a show of patriotism, ensuring a peaceful, orderly and clean elections as they exercise their right as citizens.”
At the PCGDXB where the 57 officers and men of the diplomatic mission, volunteers, poll watchers, and the media converged at 6am for the final briefing on the guidelines, the first and second to cast their votes from the opening of the polling precincts at 8am were Pangasinan province-mates Mandel dela Cruz from Karama, Dubai and Baby Boy Francisco Boton from Satwa, Dubai.
Both wanted to avoid the queues towards the last days of the OV.
Eleven-year UAE resident Dela Cruz, who voted in polling precinct number four, came prepared, saying he knew who to choose for nation-building purposes even if “I am not in my country.”
Fourteen-year UAE resident Boton, a consistent overseas voter since the 2007 elections, said the privilege given overseas Filipinos (OFs) the right to suffrage speaks volumes: “We must take advantage of this right given us to participate in our country’s selection of leaders.”
Aida Buenaventura and long-time friend Maureen Bondoc from Deira, Dubai and UAE residents from 2006 and 2009 respectively, did not know of the OV until the “noise” they had heard about the 2016 Philippine presidential elections and their right to suffrage.
Both were thankful to the PCGDXB initiative in encouraging Filipinos going for their passport renewals to be registered in the Comelec List of Overseas Voters (CLOV).
Buenaventura was able to vote for President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 because of her passport renewal between 2014 and 2015.
Bondoc was “very happy” to vote for the first time on Saturday “I can now say that I am truly a Filipino.”
She showed a copy of her passport renewed in Feb. 2018: “Our other friends and I were not able to vote in 2016 though we wanted to. We were not in the (CLOV).”
Consul General Paul Raymund said the Comelec registration in sync with one’s passport renewal had been in placed at the diplomatic mission even before he assumed as head of post in 2015.
He said the initiative had been replicated in other missions. He added some OFs refuse to be enlisted “because they think they will not be here in (future) elections. It is their right to exercise their (right to suffrage).”
Two automated voting counting machines (VCMs) bogged down at the two posts. These were immediately replaced as all Philippine missions have extras in cases of emergency.
Meanwhile, media accredited to cover the electoral process also have to abide by the “Rules of Conduct” set forth by Manila’s Commission on Elections (Comelec) “pursuant to Section 10 of Resolution No. 10498 (Guidelines for the Media Accreditation in Connection with the Conduct of the Overseas Absentee Voting) as a continuing requirement for accreditation.”
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.
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.
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).
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.
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