KUWAIT CITY, April 9: Hundreds of Overseas Filipino Workers in Kuwait (OFWs) along with other Filipinos abroad cast their votes on Saturday as the monthlong Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) officially commenced, allowing over 1.3 million Filipino registered voters to vote in the Philippine national elections and elect into office the next president, vice president, 12 senators and a party list representative. There are more than 49,000 registered voters in Kuwait.
Based on the Comelec data, there are a total of 1,376,067 overseas voters registered for this year’s elections — the highest number of Filipino overseas voters, ever. There were only 737,759 overseas voters in the 2013 midterm elections.
There are 85 Philippine posts overseas, with 30 using the automated election system while 26 are using the personal manual voting system and another 26 have adopted the postal manual voting system. Kuwait is among the posts that uses the automated election system this year. Other posts include Abu Dhabi (UAE); Beirut, Lebanon; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, UAE; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait; Manama, Bahrain; Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Tel Aviv, Israel. Other posts are in the Asia Pacific such as Hong Kong; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Osaka, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; Singapore, Tokyo, Japan; in North and Latin America such as Agana, Guam; Chicago, USA; Honolulu, USA; Los Angeles, USA; New York, USA; Ottawa, Canada; San Francisco, USA; Toronto, Canada; Vancouver, Canada; Washington DC, USA; and in Europe namely London, United Kingdom; Madrid, Spain; Milan, Italy and Rome, Italy.
In Kuwait, the Philippine Embassy opened its doors to voters at 8:00 am but there was a 20-minute delay for the first group of voters to cast their votes as the Special Board of Election Inspectors and embassy staff had to set up the five vote counting machines (VCMs) and open all the election paraphernalia as witnessed by the voters. Later on that day, there was a long queue of OFWs at the precincts as they expressed excitement in casting their votes for the candidates that they have been rooting for. After shading the ballot and inserting it into the VCM, a ballot receipt is printed out and shown to the voter so he can check if the receipt tallies with the names that he has shaded on the ballot. After which, the ballot receipt is dropped into a plastic receptacle, completing the whole OAV process. Generally, the first day of the OAV went on smoothly. Philippine Consul General Raul Dado urged all Filipinos in Kuwait to go out and exercise their right of suffrage. Along with this, he has issued the following guidelines for OFWs who will be voting:
1. The voting will begin on April 9 at 8 am and ends at 5pm everyday until May 8, at the Philippine Embassy in Faiha.
2. Approach embassy personnel with Comelec or Embassy ID. They will direct you to the polling booths Look for your name in the corresponding polling booth
3. Fill the ballots at the polling booths
4. Choose your candidate by shading the oval before the candidate’s name
5. Shade the oval in full; partial shading or no shading cannot be read by the machine
6. Choose one candidate for president, vice president and party list
7. Choose 12 candidates for senator
8. If you choose more than 12 (over vote), the votes will not be counted, because the machine cannot recognize more than 12 votes for senator
9. But the votes for president, vice- president, and party list will be counted
10. If you choose less than 12 candidates for senator (under vote), for instance only 1-11 candidates, the ballot is still valid, but the machine will count 1-11 candidates only If you choose more than one president, vice-president, or party list, it will not also be counted. The machine will read the ballot as overvote. In other words, all over votes in any category will not be counted, but all under votes in any category can still be counted
11. The voter shall insert the ballot into the voting machine Wait for the print out of your vote. Only you can see this print out. Check if the machine read your votes correctly. The voter will put the print out in a special receptacle. No one else will see the print out.
12. The voter shall leave the polling station immediately to make way for the next voter
13. You may not speak to watchers or other voters inside the polling stations in observance of the secrecy and integrity of the ballot. But the voter may speak to embassy personnel for other concerns.
14. Watchers and other observers (citizens) shall maintain proper decorum at all times
15. Watchers may also register protests as necessary
16. Filipino organizations shall be given accreditation forms, but because the polling space is limited, leaders may come or choose their representatives
17. At all times, a legal team will assist you with your queries All those who want to vote may go to the Philippine Embassy in Faiha as the OAV will run daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm except on the last day on May 9, the voting ends at 12 noon Kuwait time (5:00 pm Philippine time).
By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff