10 April 2010
“We are concerned that if blunders and delays in the implementation of the OAV will persist, Hong Kong will not only hold the record of having the highest number of registered voters but will also have the mark for having the highest number of disenfranchised voters.”
This was declared today by Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) as HK OFWs troop to Bayanihan Kennedy Town Centre to cast their votes for the 2010 OAV that is also the first time that the Automated Elections System or AES will be used for this year’s polls.
“OFW community in Hong Kong has done our part in preparing for a successful overseas absentee voting as we too want to see the success of this process. It is now up to the COMELEC and their deputized personnel here to do their job and, so far, they have not inspired much confidence that a smooth process will take place,” she added.
According to her, various Filipino organizations and concerned individuals in Hong Kong have been very active in the OAV process since the registration period. Almost 96,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong are registered voters
“However, the COMELEC and even government representatives in Hong Kong seem to be derailing the community’s efforts either by actions that may make the conduct of OAV chaotic or by outrightly refusing to conduct activities that will help make OAV a success,” she said.
Balladares enumerated the following as some of the “sins” – by commission or by omission – of the COMELEC and its deputized personnel that may create problems in the HK OAV:
1. Reconfiguration of sequence and precinct numbers just a little more than a week before the OAV started and after thousands of voters were informed of their original sequence number and precinct assignment
2. Lack of widespread voter’s education to explain the AES and how to make sure that votes will not get rejected
3. Delisting of more than 140 voters (as reported by UNIFIL’s allied organizations as of April 5) from the official CLOAV. This includes OFWs who voted at least once in the past two OAVs and should not have been delisted because of this.
Balladares said that, especially because of the last-minute changes in sequence and precinct numbers, there will be a bottleneck in Sunday, April 11, when thousands are expected to flock to the voting centre.
“Our experience back in 2004 has shown that bottlenecks can occur and such can cause the disenfranchisement of OFWs either because it will prevent them or discourage them from voting. Either way, the COMELEC has to answer for this if it happens,” she said.
Balladares reported that the information drive on the sequence and precinct numbers of voters have been rendered useless by the COMELEC’s reconfiguration of said information. Now, she said, OFWs have to again look for their precinct or SBEI assignments when they go to the voting centre.
“Even Consul General Claro Cristobal has strongly advised us OFWs to get these information prior to voting to make the OAV hassle-free. It is the COMELEC that is creating the hassles and making the OAV as inconvenient as possible for us,” she lamented.
Meanwhile, the group also assailed the severe lack of education and information drive of the government on the automated system of elections.
“Meetings were conducted on matters such as the Independence Day in June and even the mandatory Pag-IBIG membership but not much education events were done on the OAV. Voting already started and still, stacks of sample ballots are piled high inside the consulate, educating no one but blank walls,” she chided.
As to the de-listed voters, Balladares said these were discovered when they launched an information drive on the certified list of overseas absentee voters. “For sure, more will be discovered in the next weeks. Such obvious disenfranchisement by the COMELEC is condemnable,” she said.
Finally, Balladares urged the Filipino community to not let COMELEC make the efforts of the OFWs for the OAV all go to waste.
“We all know that our disenfranchisement is nothing new to the COMELEC. Let us not allow them to still do this during the period of voting until the end of the election period,” she concluded.
Dolores Balladares, Chairwoman, United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)