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.
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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).
Similar to their kababayans (countrymen) in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, Filipinos in Abu Dhabi and the Western Region voted for the senatorial candidates identified with President Rodrigo Duterte, according to partial and unofficial results from the Philippine Embassy (AUHPE) in relation to the 31-day overseas voting for the May 13 Manila midterm elections.
This is based on the partial and unofficial results from the reading of the first round of election returns from 4,952 voters which lasted from 4:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. on Monday.
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