Comelec: Overseas votes fully canvassed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced on Saturday (May 14) all certificates of canvass (COCs) from overseas absentee voting (OAV) posts have now been received and accepted by the commission, acting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC).

Commissioner Arthur Lim, who is in charge of OAV, said a total of 432,706 out of 1,376,067 registered overseas Filipinos voted from April 9 to May 9. Lim claimed a 40 percent turnout, though these numbers only add up to 31 percent.

"When I say 'completed the tally,' I mean that all the certificates of canvass (COCs) and statements of votes have been sent to the National Board of Canvassers. They have been presented to the parties present, to their counsels and authorized representatives. At 'yan po ay nasuri nila, natingnan nila at, kadalasan, kinukunan pa nila ng picture," said Lim.

[Translation: When I say 'completed the tally,' I mean that all the certificates of canvass and statements of votes have been sent to the National Board of Canvassers. They have been presented to the parties present, to their counsels and authorized representatives. They have scrutinized them and, most of the time, they even take photos of the COCs.]

"Maayos po ang pagka-tally at lahat po ng 58 certificates of canvass mula sa 82 posts worldwide ng ating overseas voting ay nandidito na po and they have been admitted for canvass by the National Board of Canvassers."

[Translation: The tally was orderly and all 58 certificates of canvass from 82 posts worldwide of our overseas voting has arrived in the country and they have been admitted for canvass by the National Board of Canvassers.]

The figure surpassed the 2010 OAV turnout of 26 percent and the 2013 turnout of 16 percent. The 2016 elections also had the highest number of registered overseas voters, the first time the number breached the 1 million mark, and the highest number of registered overseas voters who actually voted.

Automated elections were carried out in 30 posts:

Asia

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Kuala Llumpur
  3. Osaka
  4. Seoul
  5. Singapore
  6. Tokyo

Middle East

  1. Abu Dhabi
  2. Al Khobar
  3. Beirut
  4. Doha
  5. Dubai
  6. Kuwait City
  7. Jeddah
  8. Manama
  9. Riyadh
  10. Tel Aviv

Europe

  1. London
  2. Madrid
  3. Milan
  4. Rome

The Americas

  1. Chicago

  2. Hagatna, Guam

  3. Honolulu

  4. Los Angeles

  5. New York

  6. Ottawa

  7. San Francisco

  8. Toronto

  9. Vancouver

  10. Washington D.C.

These are places with sizable Filipino communities. The results were transmitted using satellite technology.

In other countries, a manual mode of elections was carried out, involving some 180,000 registered overseas Filipino voters. Results from these posts were transmitted either through e-mail or facsimile.

There were a total of 82 OAV posts worldwide.

The Comelec was aiming for an 80 percent OAV turnout but several factors stood in the way. According to Atty. Jane Valeza, director of the Comelec Office for Overseas Voting, the high mobility of overseas Filipinos affected the voter turnout.

"Hindi sila nag-stay sa isang lugar. After one year, lilipat na naman sila. And, at the same time, minsan yung mga employer nila, hindi sila in-a-allow ng off to vote. Kahit one month yan, minsan hindi sila pinapayagan," said Valeza.

[Translation: They do not stay in one place. After a year, they transfer to another place. And, at the same time, sometimes their employers do not allow them to vote. Even if you give them a month's leeway, sometimes they are still not allowed.] 

Valeza added that the distance of residence from the Philippine embassy or consulate, where voting was carried out, was also a factor.

"Hindi kaagad-agad nila, sa layong yun, mamamasahe pa sila. So definitley hindi sila pupunta sa embassy just to vote," the commissioner said.

[Translation: They cannot leave immediately, at that distance, as they will also shell out for their fare. So definitely they won't go to the embassy just to vote.]

Postal inefficiencies were also contributing factors. In countries where OAV was manual, the ballots were sent to the voters by mail. There were cases when the ballots arrived late, if at all.

"Meron tayong malaking problemang na-encounter which is yung mga balota natin na pinadala through mail, mukhang hindi na efficient yung ating postal services all over the world ... It took one month, two months, three months na napadala natin yung balota, pero hindi pa nakakarating dun sa mga botante," said Valeza.

[Translation: We encountered a big problem, which is that our ballots that were sent through mail, it seems that some our postal services all over the world are inefficient... It took one month, two months, three months since we sent the ballots, but the voting precincts have yet to receive them.] 

Valeza said this was true in some countries in Latin America and Africa.

Lim and Valeza also acknowledged and explained the delay in transmission from some posts.

The certificate of canvass from Tel Aviv, Israel was one of the last to be transmitted to the NBOC. This is owed to the Israeli government blocking the electronic transmission of encrypted data, such as election returns from vote counting machines (VCMs). The consulate in Tel Aviv had to manually canvass the votes and send the certificates to the NBOC through fax or email.

The COCs from Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, were also among the "late comers."

Although the voting post in Hong Kong could transmit electronically, it had to wait for the ballots from other parts of China to arrive.

The Philippines observes a ‘one China policy’ and also considers Taiwan as part of China. The COC from Taiwan had to be resent because the first copy was illegible.

Despite these, Lim said OAV for this round of elections was a success.

And with the tight vice presidential race between Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos and Camarines Sur Third District Rep. Leni Robredo, Lim said the overseas Filipino vote may be enough to swing the result.

Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said the results show Marcos with about 86,000 more votes than Robredo, but this is still subject to audit.

In the PPCRV partial and unofficial count, Robredo continues to keep her lead of over 200,000 votes as of Sunday morning (Mary 15).