KUWAIT: Filipinos in Kuwait, including Pinoys from other countries, may vote for their new country’s leader starting April 9. The presidential election in the Philippines is slated for May 9, but Overseas Filipinos are given a one month grace period to cast their votes at their embassy’s missions.
Overseas voters are allowed to elect president, vice president, senators and a party list representative. To ensure the success, clean and orderly Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) in the region, Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista, supervised a three-day training/seminar for the officers/ members who will oversee the voting process in the Middle East.
The event was hosted by Kuwait, with the attendance of some officers/ members from other countries including Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, and with the participation of Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa, Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain Alfonso Ver and Philippine Ambassador to Qatar Wildredo Santos. The three-day event is held at the Costa Del Sol Hotel, in Al-Shaab.
“I thanked the ambassadors of the Philippines to the Middle East for arranging this seminar for the Comelec. We are doing this to familiarize the special board of election inspectors and canvassers, in preparation for 9 April to 9 May Overseas Absentee Voting. The overseas voters are ahead for about one month, provided for by law. We would like to encourage Filipinos to come out and take advantage of the privileges to select, let their voices be heard in the upcoming elections. We are happy that OFWs have a vital role in the Philippine economy and we are grateful for that. The reason why I am here is that because we want to ensure clean and orderly elections,” he said. Asked if the Comelec is ready for this year’s conduct of OAV, Baustita stressed under his leadership, he will do his best and that the proof will be revealed after the elections.
“The recent Supreme Court decision in the printing of the voters’ receipts delayed some of our preparations, we shall overcome. We are hopeful, that with our partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs, we would be able to conduct credible elections in the foreign posts,” he said. He noted that all election materials are ready and many of them has been distributed to foreign posts. “Because of the fact that overseas voters will be one month ahead of our elections period in Manila, the thermal paper which we have in the stock room of the Comelec were already sent to foreign posts. As a matter of fact, we have them here ready,” he reiterated.
The day of valor
Every year, April 9 is remembered as the Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagitingan) and traditionally, it is an official holiday in the Philippines, will there be some changes in the election date? “No, we stick to election dates overseas. As a matter of fact, it is somehow providential because the date falls on April 9, the start of choosing our government officials, we should really choose the next official with honor and pride. In foreign post, it is agreed that the embassy will be opened to voters from April 9 including weekends and holidays until May 9,” he announced.
With regards to the sanctity and safety of ballots of overseas absentee voters, Baustita explained the voting machine is fully secured with additional safety features. “As provided by law Republic Act 8436, as amended by Republic Act 9369, all the safeguard features written in the law will be implemented by Comelec for this year’s elections. We insure that all the standard operating procedures on OAV will be followed, that is exactly the reasons why we are conducting this seminar here in Kuwait right now, for them to be aware of the features and to protect the integrity and sanctity of election ballots. We are also looking at the electronic transfer of results, similar to what we are already implementing in the Philippines for quicker transmission of results, we are still working on that,” he noted.
Hacking of website
In response to queries about defacing of Comelec website about three days ago by a certain hacker calling itself ‘Anonymous Philippines’, Bautista pointed out that it was an unfortunate incident. “Hacking activities by certain groups can happen to whichever websites, may it be from the CIA, or a certain companies in New York and it happen to private and some government agencies in the Philippine and in some countries too. Comelec website is a public website, the message sent by the hacker to us was clear, they want to make sure that we have an honest and credible elections, and that all safeguards necessary for the elections will be implemented.
That of course we vouched that everything mentioned in the law will be followed. But I want you to know that website that we are going to use during Election Day will be different from the public website already in the Comelec right now. Different website and different security features will be used during Election Day,” he added. Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa reminded the Filipino public that the canvassing of vote, (on May 9) will be opened to poll watchers/representatives of political parties at the embassy. “We want to show the transparency of the embassy on May 9, we will canvas the vote publicly.
In Kuwait we have 49,000 registered voters. Our challenge in our post is to be able to encourage at least 30-40 percent of the voters. We want to ask the support of employers to allow their Filipino workers, if they are registered, to come out and vote for their government officials,” he said.
By Ben Garcia