Comelec: No extension for mail-in overseas voting despite late deliveries

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Comelec: No extension for mail-in overseas voting despite late deliveries
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 — The Commission on Elections on Thursday said that it will not extend the voting period for Filipinos abroad, maintaining that all votes must be in by May 9, Philippine time.

This is despite election paraphernalia arriving late in some Philippine foreign service posts, which also delayed the mailing of ballots to voters. 

“All ballots must be in by May 9 because the counting will have to start even overseas by May 9, exactly whatever is the time there, it should exactly start by 8 p.m.,” Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said during the virtual Pandesal Forum hosted by the Kamuning Bakery Cafe.

Overseas Filipinos had a month to cast their ballots, either personally at foreign service posts or by postal voting.

Canada-based Filipinos previously said they requested that the Comelec accept mail-in ballots postmarked before May 9 because some election packets were mailed out a few days after overseas voting started. Overseas voters in Los Angeles also requested an extension, according to an ABS-CBN report last week.

“Kung late matanggap ‘yung mga balota nila tapos syempre late din nilang naipadala (If they received their ballots late and of course, they would send them in late too) then everything must be in by May 9… At this point, we cannot really grant an extension,” Garcia said, adding that the constitution provides that elections must be conducted by the second Monday of May.

Voting on-site

On Monday this week, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Affairs Brigido “Dodo” Dulay said overseas Filipinos allowed to vote by mail only may cast their ballots personally at Philippine foreign service posts if they have not yet received their mail-in ballots.

The Philippine Consulate General (PCG) in Vancouver has released guidelines for in-person voting. 

Meanwhile, the New York consulate on Thursday said it “strongly advises” registered voters under their jurisdiction to either personally drop off their ballots at the PCG or if they have not yet received their mail-in ballots, the consulate provided requirements for those who wish to cast their votes on-site instead. 

In a response to a frustrated Filipino voter in the comments section of its requirements advisory, the PCG in New York said that it has been “trying [their] best to make sure that all kababayan qualified to vote are able to do so.” 

“We did everything we can to get all the ballots out to our kababayan as fast as we could despite the delay in the arrival of the ballots and a COVID outbreak that sidelined most of us,” the consulate said.

“If you cannot vote because of the requirements and you have something more important to do this weekend, then that is your choice.”

‘Not promising’

The poll body commissioner on Thursday said that while there were overseas Filipinos flocking to cast their ballots on the first few days of the elections, the turnout so far lands a little over a quarter of total registered overseas Filipino voters.

“We noted that we have 1.697 million overseas voters… I have received the figures and the number of overseas voter turnout is not as promising… presently, we only have about 400,000 [votes] more or less,” Garcia said in a mix of English and Filipino.

However, the commissioner said the number might not yet include those who voted by mail.

READComelec expects higher overseas voter turnout

Representatives of overseas Filipino workers earlier claimed that foreign service posts and the Comelec were unprepared for the conduct of overseas voting. 




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