Overseas Filipino voters in Hong Kong asked to come back on other days to avoid crowding

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Overseas Filipino voters in Hong Kong asked to come back on other days to avoid crowding
Filipinos based in Hong Kong fall in line hoping to cast their votes on the first day of the overseas voting period.
Philippine Consul General to Hong Kong Raly Tejada

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2; 4:38 p.m.) — The Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong is requesting registered Filipino voters to consider casting their ballots on other days after after long queues caught the attention of police on Sunday, the first day of Overseas Absentee Voting.

Filipinos in Hong Kong need to go to the polling station at the Bayanihan Kennedy Town Centre to vote and thousands went on Sunday. Overseas voting will continue until May 9, election day in the Philippines.

In a Facebook post, Consul General Raly Tejada said that while the turnout so far is a good sign for the country’s democracy, the Hong Kong Police Force have raised health and safety concerns. 

"Napansin na po kasi ng mga pulis na sobrang dami ng ating mga botante ngayon at dahil sa safety concerns and anti-pandemic measures in place — nakiki-usap ang mga pulis na kung maaari ay sa ibang araw na [bumoto] ang iba," Tejada said. 

(The police have noticed that there are too many voters out today and because of safety concerns and anti-pandemic measures in place, the police are asking if the others can cast their votes on another day.)

The Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong on Sunday also appealed to employers to allow Filipino employees to vote on weekdays "when crowds are substantially thinner."

Hong Kong is experiencing its fifth COVID-19 surge. Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection logged 2,535 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday, the majority of which were locally infected and only 13 were classified as imported cases. 

Overseas voting in Hong Kong started on Sunday at 8 a.m., but Tejada pleaded with voters to give in to the request of Hong Kong police as early as 10 a.m. Tejada posted photos showing long lines of Filipino voters along streets that are also marked with election paraphernalia. 

Tejada reminded voters that they still have 29 days to cast their ballots. Filipino migrants may vote in the Philippine embassy or consulate in their areas until May 9. 

There are 93,886 registered voters in Hong Kong, 93,625 of whom are land-based voters. 

A representative from Bayan Muna Hong Kong, in a Facebook stream on Sunday, said the five precincts for voting in Hong Kong are now closed and only 3,000 voters were accommodated.

In a separate statement on Sunday, Rep. Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna) said he plans to raise what transpired in Hong Kong’s first day of OAV to the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms.

Gaite wants the committee to call for an immediate investigation by summoning the Commission on Elections, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Hong Kong Consular Office.

Last week, members of the Filipino community aired frustration that the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong was allegedly unprepared for the overseas voting period. 

They also noted that the majority of the Filipino workers in Hong Kong are only allowed to go out on Sundays, with a greater voter turnout historically seen on the last two Sundays of the overseas voting period. 

Tejada did not immediately respond to Philstar.com's request seeking comment on concerns raised by overseas Filipino groups last week.

The Commission on Elections last week said it adopted a "vote anywhere" resolution in a bid to increase overseas voter turnout. Under the "vote anywhere" system, registered overseas voters may cast their votes at any Philippine embassy or consulate that is most convenient for them.




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