Low turnout seen on 1st day of OAV
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - April 14, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) observed a low turnout of voters on the first day of the overseas absentee voting (OAV) yesterday, although many voters in Hong Kong and Singapore cast their ballots.

Polling precincts in all Philippine embassies and consulate offices opened, except for Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, according to Jane Valeza, a member of the Comelec-Committee on Absentee Voting (COAV).

“Definitely it was peaceful. Everything was in place. All of the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines functioned and there was no major problem. There was not even a minor problem reported to us,” Valeza said.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes earlier announced that absentee voting in Riyadh and Jeddah will start on April 16 because of the delay in the release of PCOS machines and ballot boxes by Saudi customs authorities.

But the materials needed for Riyadh were eventually released in time for field testing and sealing and training of embassy officials, which jumpstarted yesterday’s opening of the absentee voting there.

For the first time, the Comelec is no longer using indelible ink in marking the forefingers of overseas voters who cast their ballots.

According to Valeza, indelible ink is useless for OAV since voting runs for one month.

She added the embassy personnel acting as Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) are holding voter’s lists bearing the pictures of voters to detect if one will attempt to vote more than once.

“The use of indelible ink in OAV does not serve its purpose because this runs for one month. For instance, if you vote now, by next week the ink will no longer be there,” Valeza said.

According to the Comelec, there were more voters in Hong Kong and Singapore as the start of the OAV happened to be the day-off of many Filipino workers there.

Comelec officials expect many OFWs in the Middle East to participate in the OAV next week.

There are 737,759 registered voters for OAV and 281,372 of them are in the Middle East, while 228,309 absentee voters are in Asia, 125,604 in the US, 75,666 in Europe, and 26,808 are seafarers.

Valeza said they expect the influx of voters on the last week of the month-long absentee voting as Filipinos are used to beating the deadline.

OFWs in HK start voting

Meanwhile, the first day of absentee voting in Hong Kong went smoothly yesterday despite the cost cutting measures implemented by the Comelec due to budget constraints.

The number of PCOS machines has been reduced from 20 to nine despite the increase in the number of registered voters in the Chinese territory.

“We cannot increase the number of PCOS machines. We didn’t buy additional machines. We are using the same PCOS machines we used in 2010,” Brillantes said when he inspected the voting precinct at the Bayanihan Kennedy Town Center.

The Comelec chairman said there is enough time to resolve possible problems that may arise. – With Carina Roncesvalles



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