Overseas Boto Patrollers help patrol polls
- Arlene Burgos, New Media Manager Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula ABS-CBN News and Current () - April 15, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Hours after the overseas absentee voting (OAV) for the 2010 elections started last Saturday, a member of the Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula (BMPM) movement posted a blog entry on BMPM’s site.

The Boto Patroller is an overseas Filipino worker in Riyadh, one of 589,830 Filipinos registered to vote from outside the Philippine territory. She is a registered member of BMPM, ABS-CBN’s election-focused citizen journalism campaign. Her complaint: the Commission on Elections (Comelec) did not apply indelible ink to her finger after she voted. The violet ink is the ultimate mark a Filipino had voted. It is indelible because people are not supposed to be able to wash it off for hours or days, preventing any possibility of repeat voting.

“So disappointed sa voting precinct po dito sa Riyadh embassy, no ballot boxes!!!! All we have is a box made of carton, secured by a packing tape po. Why our government cannot even send us here ballot boxes, na may Philippine Airlines naman tayo dito para magdala ng mga ballot boxes papuntang Riyadh, Saudi,” the Patroller posted at the bmpm.abs-cbnnews.com hours after casting her vote. She added, “Natatakot po ako sa mga boto po namin dito, baka mawawala po, kasi ang lalagyan . . . carton boxes lang po, secured by a tape.”

Saudi Arabia is among numerous countries populated by OFWs who will do manual personal voting; others will be doing postal voting. Automated voting, similar to how the Philippines will be conducting elections on May 10, is only being done in Hong Kong and Singapore.

After that April 10 report, another Boto Patroller posted in the BMPM site this blog post: “I understand that after dropping my ballot in the ballot box, the election officer should apply indelible ink in my finger. There was none. Also I confirm one kabayan report today in ABS-CBN news that the ballot box was a box made of carton only. Indeed, the ballot box was made of carton.”  

The ABS-CBN Bureau in Middle East wasted no time verifying the Boto Patroller reports.

In his report, ME Bureau Chief Dindo Amparo quoted Riyadh Vice Consul Roussel Reyes, in charge with the OAV in Saudi Arabia, as saying the Comelec deliberately did not use indelible ink for this year’s elections, and were instead supposed to implement other security safeguards in the balloting. These included signing on logbooks, use of computer data and thumb-marking.

“Reyes said the use of indelible ink was apparently useless since it only lasts for three to four days, while the OAV runs up to 30 days. He added that the efficiency of the indelible ink in avoiding election fraud such as multiple voting can only be useful in the Philippines where voting is held on a single day,” Amparo reported.

On the use of carton ballot boxes, Amparo said Comelec has been doing this since the start of OAV in 2004. “The ballot boxes made of carton are basically supplied to them by the Comelec. He (Reyes) argued however that the carton ballot boxes have enough security seals to safeguard the ballots.”

But that answer from the Comelec did nothing to assuage OFWs’ fears that their votes, casted thousands of miles away from their homeland, would be protected.

In another BMPM site, for instance, another Boto Patroller expressed fear that his vote would not count.

“Nagsimula na ang botohan 2010 sa Macau at isa ako sa mga unang bumoto dito. Sigurado kaya na kung sino ang ibinoto namin ay ang siyang babasahin kasi ay manual voting pa rin kami tulad ng mga nakaraang halalan na ginanap dito at ni hindi namin nalaman kung sino ang nanalong presidente. Sana po ay may magbantay ng aming boto na ipadadala diyan sa ating bansa,” the Patroller said in his post to botomoipatrolmo.multiply.com, BMPM’s site in Multiply. In the official BMPM fan page in Facebook, several Boto Patrollers were expressing similar sentiments, apparently voicing out fears that cheating might mar elections.

The sentiments of these Patrollers outside the country mirror a very familiar fear. It is precisely the kind of fear that BMPM hopes to get out into the open so authorities are given chance to properly address them.

The OAV, for instance, lasts until May 10. As Boto Patrollers monitor how voting happens in the countries where they are, it is the BMPM’s hope that the Comelec and other officials with the capacity to solve problems being voiced out by Patrollers are resolved. If at all, this mode of incident-reporting from the Patrollers, going to the media, and finally to the authorities create a kind of checks and balances where the citizens, in a very unconventional manner never before experienced by this country, are able to exact accountability from their government officials.

It is precisely this dynamics within a democracy that BMPM hopes will happen as the country approaches national elections May 10. BMPM encourages the citizens to speak up, to talk about how voting and the entire electoral process are unfolding in every community. The idea there is very simple, if we all do this together and in all corners of this country, there is a chance we will be able to bring to light wrongdoing, exact accountability from people who are supposed to make sure issues are resolved, elections will proceed cleanly and efficiently, and democracy will work.

Boto Patrollers may report through the following:

 Email: ireport@abs-cbn.com

 Text/ MMS: 2366 (type IREPORT<space>name, address, age, gender)

 30-second voice message: (02) 411-2676

 Blog/ picture/ video postings: bmpm.abs-cbnnews.com / botomoipatrolmo.multiply.com

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