With only a day before the period overseas absentee voting (OAV) ends, the Philippine post in Hong Kong registered a dismal turnout Sunday, bringing the number of votes cast to just about 40 percent of the over 90,000 registered Filipino voters there.
Vice Consul Val Roque of the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) in Hong Kong told GMANews.TV in a phone interview that 3,749 voters cast their votes on Sunday, bringing the total voter turnout in the Chinese territory to just 38,836 as of 6 p.m. of May 9.
While the figure is more than twice the 19,185 voter turnout in the 2007 elections, this year’s figure remains way lower than the turnout in the 2004 presidential elections recorded to be about 65,000 or 66 percent of the registered voters then.
“We have to recognize that overseas Filipino workers come and go. Because a significant number of Filipinos here are transients, about 30,000 voters may not be in Hong Kong anymore," Roque said.
There 95,355 registered voters in Hong Kong for the 2010 elections.
Dolores Balladares, chair of the Union of Filipinos (Unifil) in Hong Kong, said the Philippine post and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) have been remiss in launching an effective campaign to encourage increased participation.
“Voters’ education has been very weak and the Comelec came here quite too late. Only a month or two was spend for preparation for the OAV, so information campaign did not reach majority of the Filipino voters," Balladares, whose group is one of the only two recognized poll watchers in Hong Kong, said in a separate interview.
The PCG in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia meanwhile registered 7,078 votes as of 6 p.m. also on Sunday, according to Consul Leo Tito Ausan.
Likewise, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Al Khobar recorded about 4,800 votes also on Sunday, according to Labor Attache David Dicang.
The month-long OAV, which started on April 10, will end on Monday at 6 p.m. Philippine time, after which results will be canvassed and electronically transmitted.
Philippine diplomatic posts using automated and manual voting, however, have said they may extend beyond the schedule as long as voters are within 30 meters from or inside the voting center premises at 6 p.m.
DFA ready to receive overseas votes
As this developed, the Department of Foreign Affairs-OAV Secretariat on Sunday said it is ready to receive the certificates of canvass from the Embassies and Consulates General worldwide once all the votes are counted.
“[The Philippine posts] are well-prepared to receive the expected huge number of voters who will come in or mail their ballots, even at the last minute," DFA-OAVS chair Rafael Seguis said in a statement posted on the DFA’s Web site.
According to Seguis, transmission tests have also been successfully performed in Hong Kong and Singapore, the areas where the automated mode of voting were adopted.
For the foreign service posts who adopted postal or personal voting, a preliminary certificate of canvassing will be faxed to the DFA-OAVS containing the results of voting in their areas.
The head of the Special Board of Canvassers of foreign service posts with 150 or more voters will meanwhile fly to Manila to personally deliver the original certificates of canvass, the tally sheets and the original ballots.
On the other hand, those with less than 150 voters will deliver the documents through fax, email, special pouch or any other equally safe and reliable means.
The OAVS Monitoring and Action Center have been operating 24 hours daily including weekends to address election-related concerns, Seguis added. —KBK, GMANews.TV