Probe absentee voting mess, 2 senators ask Comelec

Filipino workers in Hong Kong cue for their turn to cast their vote on the first day of the overseas absentee voting held at the Bayanihan, Kennedy Town Centre, Hongkong. Image from the Consul General Raly Tejada / Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — Two senators on Monday called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate the alleged disorder that marred the first day of absentee voting abroad, mainly in Hong Kong.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said the Comelec should tweak its policies and instructions to its personnel and put in place an immediate solution to improve the current system.

“My heart goes out to those (overseas Filipino workers or OFWs) who were ready to vote but had to be turned back and would have to return to cast their vote,” Pimentel said.

But Pimentel expressed optimism that the Comelec still has enough time to remedy the situation.

Sen. Imee Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on electoral reforms, suggested that the Comelec extend voting hours at Philippine embassies and consulates to ensure that OFWs are able to cast their votes.

The Comelec earlier admitted that the start of the monthlong overseas absentee voting in five Philippine foreign posts was delayed due to problems in the shipping of election materials. These are the Philippine embassies in Wellington, New Zealand; Islamabad, Pakistan, and Dili, Timor-Leste, as well as in the Philippine consulates general in Milan, Italy, and in New York.

On Monday, however, Election Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, who is in charge of overseas voting, said these “logistical issues” would be resolved soon.

He said five more vote-counting machines (VCM) would be deployed to the consulate in Hong Kong to bring the total number of machines to 10 to accommodate the huge turnout there.

He said VCMs would arrive soon in the consulates in New York, Wellington, and Milan, although the ballots have already been sent by post to the registered voters.

The election materials for 564 voters registered with the embassy in Islamabad held up by Pakistan customs were expected to be released the same day, according to Casquejo.

He said the election materials for the embassy in Timor-Leste with 706 voters would be deployed upon the next flight availability, which is expected on Thursday.

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