Filipino voters sort out their papers at the consulate. Photo: John Varughese/Gulf Today
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
The two Philippine diplomatic missions in the UAE are giving priority to special categories of registered overseas Filipino voters at the ongoing month-long electoral exercise for Manila’s May 13 mid-term elections wherein the sector is to vote into office 12 senators and one party-list representative to their bicameral Congress.
The special categories are the senior citizens, pregnant women, adult/s or parent/s with minors in tow, and the physically incapacitated.
The situation was observed on Saturday, the second day of the week-end field overseas voting (FOV) held at the Dynasty Ballroom of the Asiana Hotel in Deira, Dubai, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Philippine Embassy Second Secretary/Consul Rowena Pangilinan-Daquipil replied in the affirmative when whatsapp-ed on Saturday afternoon with regards the protocol.
Community volunteer poll watchers at the hotel began announcing the priority policy 30 minutes after the three polling precincts, manned by 18 Philippine Consulate General in Dubai personnel, were opened at 9 a.m.
The first nine voters were at the hotel lobby as early as 8 a.m. and they were among many who expressed hope that more FOVs be conducted. They suggested Karama, another area densely populated by Filipinos. Like all the other voters on Saturday, they welcomed the advisory regarding the April 28 to May 11, 12 noon to 7 p.m. FOV at the Chelsea Plaza Hotel in Satwa, Dubai. They were happy that more Filipinos are given the chance to cast their vote, considering work timings.
A hotel staff assigned at the hall decided that he cast his vote at “the other hotel tomorrow (Sunday).”
A husband was grateful that the priority policy was implemented. He approached a volunteer by around 10 a.m., a few minutes after the priority policy was announced again, to ask if it were possible for his wife with back problems be prioritized, too.
They dropped by the hotel on their way home from the hospital where she had to undergo the necessary series of diagnostics and additional medical check-ups for drugs: “I must bring her home at once.”
He was glad they were able to cast their vote after their names were easily verified in Certified List of Voters (CLOV) of Manila’s election body, the Commission on Elections.
In between were couples with their toddler to primary to secondary school children waiting patiently at the ballroom foyer for their names to be called. The children were allowed inside the ballroom where a section had been designated for them while their parents cast.
While the children behaved, the modulated conversations towards 12 noon were marred a bit when a woman rowdily asked one volunteer why her husband was already called and she had to wait “for how long.”
She sarcastically replied in the Filipino street lingo: “Your kind of system is indeed a system and I have to wait here,” in contrast to others’ understanding that verification of their enlistment in the CLOV may take time—some brought about by their change of civil status—and therefore change in their surnames that needed double-checking of their names when they were single.
There were several senior citizens, some accompanied by their children.It was either themselves or their children who asked if they could be given priority for which the volunteers gave them the privilege.
At 11:30 a.m. a family with a gray pram decorated in pink was seen queue-ing for what was already becoming a “snake” beeline at the hotel lobby, awaiting clearance to proceed to the ballroom.
A lady was caught briskly fanning herself at an inner chamber from the ballroom foyer. She walked from her apartment in Clock Tower to the hotel. She was glad that the FOV was done near her place and during her day off: “As a Christian and as a Filipino, I must exercise my right.”
Poll watcher Claire Salomon described the weekend FOV as successful having drawn huge voters on both Friday and Saturday; although some were unable to exercise their right to suffrage because they were not in the CLOV. Two filed written complaints to await decision of Comelec authorities in Manila.
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