Filipino overseas voting reaches new height despite glitches
SAN FRANCISCO – Filipino overseas voting reached a new height as the recently concluded 2019 midterm elections turnout nearly tripled that of the last midterm elections in 2013.
According to the figures released by the Department of Foreign Affairs-Overseas Voting Secretariat (DFA-OVS), this year’s midterm elections had a turnout of 334,928. In comparison, the turnout of overseas voters in the 2013 midterms was at 118,823.
With an increase of 216,105 (about 182%) over the 2013 figure, this year’s midterm polls had the second biggest overseas election turnout after the 2016 presidential election (432,706).
The number of registered overseas voters for the 2019 elections also increased to 1,822,173 from the 2016 presidential elections figure of 1,376,067.
The ten diplomatic posts with the biggest turnout of voters per Embassy (PE)/ Philippine Consulate General (PCG) are: Hong Kong PCG (36,009); Dubai PCG (28,487); Singapore PE (25,110); Abu Dhabi PE (15,806); Kuwait PE (15,558); Riyadh PE (14,616); Jeddah PCG (11,484); Tokyo PE (10,744); San Francisco PCG (9,630); and New York PCG (9,045).
Middle East and Africa took the lead in the regional breakdown at 121,240 followed by Asia Pacific at 113,139, the Americas at 54,834, and Europe at 45,715.
The 2019 national and local elections had problems with malfunctioning vote counting machines (VCMs) and secure digital (SD) cards; overseas voting also encountered the same problems aside from the failure of some mailed ballots to reach registered voters on time.
Despite these problems, however, the DFA-OVS reported that “the men and women of the Philippine Foreign Service have successfully ushered a voter turnout of 334,928…. (and that) the 2019 elections reached a new milestone for overseas voting” since the Overseas Voting Act was signed into law in 2003.
In the last briefing with the press, PCG San Francisco Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr. stated that they had a 9,630 or a 16% voter turnout within their jurisdiction and that they spent around $78,000 for overseas voting process.
Bensurto summarized that there were a total number of 59,513 registered overseas voters spread over 60 precincts ballots which were fed to same number of 60 sd cards, two of which malfunctioned and were promptly replaced by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in Manila.
Bensurto also had a conversation with Filipinos who earlier that day staged a protest in front of the Consulate. He said these conversation was“fruitful in terms of getting ideas from both sides (and as an) opportunity to explain ourselves and get their sides too.”
Chanting “Ang tao ang bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban”; “Ballots delayed, ballots denied,” “Transmission delayed, transparency denied,”among others, protesters from Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA), Migrante, Bayan USA, Malaya Movement and Friends of Akbayan, listened as speakers took turns in lashing out at the COMELEC and the Duterte administration and its winning allies.
Former anti-Marcos activist Bernadette Herrera said, “We need to strengthen our ranks against their wishes for a lifting of term limits showing their greed for power and worst, their willingness to sell out the Philippines.”
Nurj Kaalim of Migrante Northern California stated, “What we have now are pro-Duterte senators who would support all his ridiculous policies like lowering the criminal liability to age nine, support the drug war that already killed 30,000 people and support the ongoing Martial Law in Mindanao, among others. Those who are on the other side would no longer have a voice.”
Kaalim shared that her father advised her to be careful in expressing her views for her safety’s sake, especially when she returns to Davao.
“COMELEC’s seven-hour delay in transmitting electoral returns to the transparency server, massive vote buying, delay of mailing ballots to overseas Filipinos, and other undemocratic practices make COMELEC unworthy of the public trust in conducting and overseeing fair and honest elections,” FAHRA Los Angeles’ leader Art Garcia insisted. “Investigate the anomalies of COMELEC. Pursue electoral reforms.”