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Embassy in New Zealand asks voters to return election packets with irregularities

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Embassy in New Zealand asks voters to return election packets with irregularities
This 2019 file photo shows overseas Filipinos in Hong Kong registering to vote.
The STAR, file

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:03 p.m.) — The Philippine Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand is calling on Filipino voters under its jurisdiction to return election packets with irregularities after a voter allegedly received a ballot from the embassy that had missing candidate names.

“Anyone who claims that they have received a ballot with an erasure/non-appearance of any of the entries is requested to return the entire ballot package to the Embassy so that we can verify the claim,” the foreign service post said in a statement Sunday afternoon, Manila time. 

“The Embassy is coordinating with [the Commission on Elections] accordingly,” it added. 

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Affairs Brigido “Dodo” Dulay in a Twitter post said that the poll body has “verified that all ballots in [New Zealand] have the complete line up of candidates.”

“So it’s definitely fake news. Let’s stop the spread of misinformation online,” Dulay said

In the 2016 and 2019 elections, unverified reports of irregularities in overseas voting also surfaced.

The embassy in Wellington serves 29,304 registered voters in the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, and Fiji. Filipinos there may cast their ballots through postal voting and an automated election system.  

Land-based voters may check if their names are included in the Certified List of Overseas Voters in Wellington.

The embassy in Wellington received all of the ballots for voters under its jurisdiction last April 15. Voters have two more weeks to cast their votes with an 11 p.m. deadline on May 9, New Zealand time.

“Given the shipment and courier delays, the Embassy would greatly appreciate it if you could kindly mail back your ballot as soon as you have received it,” it said in an April 15 advisory

Comelec's Office for Overseas Voting in a statement on Monday afternoon said that the photo of a ballot excluding presidential candidate vice president Leni Robredo's name was "deliberately edited."

"The OFOV is coordinating closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand to identify the persons responsible for editing the photo and for spreading said photo on social media," it said.
 

Irregularities

Filipinos abroad began casting their votes for the May polls last April 10. The issue with a missing candidate on the ballot comes after an incident of a voter receiving a spoiled ballot in Singapore and several Sweden-based voters receiving two mail-in election packets.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Consulate in Dubai also denied allegations that a pre-shaded ballot was given to a voter there. 

READ: Comelec task force vs fake news to check reports of pre-shaded ballots

Migrante Inernational, in a statement last week, said overseas Filipino workers and various migrant leaders from the Asia-Pacific, Europe, Canada, the United State, and the Middle East said they held an online dialogue to discuss their concerns on overseas voting with Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo and Comelec Director for the Offive for Overseas Voting Sonia Bea Wee-Lozada. 

Leaders said that the significantly reduced budget for overseas voting to P111 million from the requested P800 million was a "significant factor in the problems presently facing our overseas voters."

Overseas voters and migrant leaders "expressed frustration and dismay" as many of them have yet to receive their ballots and raised the issue of incorrect mailing addresses.

READ: Some election paraphernalia delivered late, but no extension needed — Comelec

Meanwhile, the group also said voters in Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia "expressed concerns over migrant workers having to wait an average of 4-6 hours in line with no protection from the harsh weather conditions." 

They pointed to the limited number of Vote Counting Machines, polling precincts, and fied-mobile voting activities to cater to the voting population in the areas. 

READ: Filipino voters in Hong Kong welcome additional five precincts 

Migrant leaders also said there were clear election offenses that were allegedly ignored by the Special Board of Election Inspectors in South Korea and in the Middle East after voters there wore campaign shirts inside the polling areas, while some were even actively campaigning near the posts.

Casquejo and Lozada promised to call the attention of the concerned Philippine foreign service posts. Casquejo also said cases may be filed against those who committed election offenses.

"The migrant leaders challenged COMELEC to investigate the realities faced by overseas Filipino voters on the ground and listen to the challenges they are facing, instead of one-sidedly accepting the statements released by officials in our consulates and embassies," Migrante International said in their statement.

The group also called on the poll body to actively coordinate with Philippine posts to make sure memos and advisories reach Filipino voters abroad.

2022 ELECTIONS

OVERSEAS FILIPINOS

OVERSEAS VOTING

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 3, 2022 - 9:00am

A thread on reports about the Philippines' absentee and overseas voting for the May 2022 elections.

Main Photo:

Commission on Elections Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan leads the ceremonial sealing and send-off of trailer trucks which will transport the vote counting machines or VCMs and other election paraphernalia from the Comelec warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna to various regional hubs on Saturday midnight, April 2, 2022 in preparation for the coming May 9 polls.

The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

May 3, 2022 - 9:00am

Another vote counting machine used in ballot feeding for overseas voting had malfunctioned, the Philippine Consulate General in New York says.

This is the third VCM assigned to the consulate that could no longer be used after malfunctioning.

"Just the same, the Consulate will continue ballot feeding using its last remaining functioning VCM," the consulate says.

April 12, 2022 - 10:21am

Overseas Filipinos in Italy can start claiming their mailing packets or accomplish their ballots and return it on the same day, the Philippine Embassy in Rome says.

"These voters may pick up their mailing packets containing their ballots from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, 11 April 2022 to 17 April 2022," the embassy says in an advisory.

Meanwhile, mailing packets that are not picked up after April 17 will be sent through postal service.

April 11, 2022 - 10:20pm

Vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte calls alleged social media reports of pre-shaded ballots with her name on them in Singapore and Dubai "grossly disconcerting."

"As a politician, my experience has taught me that Filipinos do not respect those who cheat and engage in election fraud," says Davao City Mayor Duterte, who is President Rodrigo Duterte's only daughter.

"I never have and will never condone cheating. I won my past elections because the people voted for me," she adds in a statement.

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