Overseas voters flow in at Philippine Embassy - GulfToday

Overseas voters flow in at Philippine Embassy

Philippine-Overseas

Michael Jiurgen Mercado casts his vote at the Philippine Overseas Labour Office. Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Registered overseas voters at the Philippine Embassy and at the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO-AUH) in Al Qubaisa, Abu Dhabi flowed in continually on Thursday, the sixth day of the 30-day overseas voting (OV) for the May 13 Manila mid-term (legislative-general-local) elections.

Community volunteer Richard Oliver Raagas said six “patiently waited” before the six polling stations opened at 9 a.m.

Thursday was observed as the Christian and national holiday of Maundy Thursday in the Philippines—part of the Holy Week observance—and  so all the 87 Philippine diplomatic missions and 34 Polos around the world should have been closed.

But, Manila’s election body, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), issued a resolution on April 13—the first day of the OV—instructing all these to remain open in order to accommodate all overseas voters in their respective jurisdictions on April 18 and 19, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, respectively.

Meanwhile, a male voter at the next-door POLOAUH villa compound filed the first OV protest to be recorded at 10:45 a.m.

The voter was visibly disturbed, frustrated and could not be appeased eventually, when the automated voting counting machine (VCM) through which he had personally fed his ballot blinked “over-voted.”

“I am sure I only shaded and voted for 12 senators and one party-list. Why then the over-vote,” the man was heard complaining in the Filipino language.

He filled up the protest form when the Comelec-designated poll clerk who had attended to him asked him whether he wanted to file a complaint.

The poll clerk repeatedly told the voter he could not comment because as a policy, each ballot and each generated VCM print-out are only double-checked by each voter before dropping the latter at a designated Comelec bin attached to each VCM. 

POLOAUH welfare officer Ron Bartolome said that specific protest form with the VCM-generated print out and photocopy of the man’s Emirates identification card which he had presented before entering the poll precinct would be submitted to the Comelec Board. Early on, Gulf Today interviewed Michael Jiurgen Mercado who cast his vote in less than five minutes also at one of the three polling precincts at the POLOAUH.

Mercado dropped by the embassy to apply for the Affidavit of Support document. He was informed that consular services were not available and upon learning that he could only vote, did so.

“I did not know that the embassy is closed for consular services. No worries. I have thought of whom to vote even before the election campaign. Good that I already voted.”

Over at the embassy, UAE residents for 14 years husband-and-wife Erickson and Rowena Gabriel cast their vote in less than 15 minutes with their primary school daughter in tow.

The couple appreciated the Comelec decision allowing overseas voters to exercise their right to suffrage even on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

They learnt of the Comelec resolution through the Bayanihan Council group communications which they also had passed on to other “kababayans” (countrymen).

Erickson also said: “We welcome the one-month OV. We all have different work schedules. We could not go to the polls in just one day and we must not forget our civic duty as Filipinos to elect whoever we want to govern over us.”

Another man who did not know that consular services were unavailable and went to the embassy with his two toddler daughters decided to vote instead.

Emilie Caballero was at the embassy after accomplishing her errands: “We must vote. It is our right. I reminded my children, my nephews and nieces in Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai to vote. They should.” Caballero was given a piece of paper to write down her bets before entering the polling precincts as these were listed down in her mobile phone.

The use of mobile phones at the precincts is one of the election bans.