P7M for postal vote of Filipinos abroad - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

1:48 AM

P7M for postal vote of Filipinos abroad - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

First Posted 14:40:00 02/03/2010

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections has allotted P7 million for the voting by mail of 138,113 Filipinos abroad in 47 countries who wanted to participate in the May 2010 elections this way, it was learned Wednesday.

Comelec Commissioner Armando Velasco, chairman of committee on overseas absentee voting (COAV), told INQUIRER.net the allocation for postal voting is part of its memorandum of agreement the poll body signed with the Philippine Postal Corp. (Philpost) and the Department of Foreign Affairs Tuesday.

Under postal voting, ballots of overseas absentee voters (OAVs) shall be sent by the commission directly to the voters' residence or work address abroad. Mailing packets, containing the official ballots and other election paraphernalia, should be filled up by the voter upon receipt and returned to the post of the country where they would be canvassed, explained Velasco.

“We are allowing our OAVs an option of postal voting if they reside or work far from the Philippine post or they would have difficulty traveling and voting. In our MoA, Philpost and DFA commit to establish a ballot mailing system for the implementation of this postal voting project,” said Velasco.

For its part, Comelec will furnish Philpost a mailing list containing the addresses of OAVs abroad February 10, with the ballots mailed to the voters before April 25 and returned to consulates for canvassing May 10, the commissioner said.

For the rest of the half a million OAVs who would cast their votes in person, they must present a valid passport or identification with name, signature, and photograph to the special board of election inspectors (SBEIs). In the absence of identification documents, a voter may be identified through oath by an SBEI member. If a voter fails to prove his identity, he would not be allowed to vote.

Only after this can the voter write the names of national candidates on the OAV ballot form measuring 14 by 4.5 inches, said Velasco.

OAVs may cast their ballots any time from 8 a.m. of April 10 to 6 p.m. of May 10, Philippine time. Except for April 10 when all foreign posts are required to open at 8 a.m. local time of the host country, foreign posts may adopt a flexible schedule of eight hours of voting, said Velasco.

On May 10, the SBEIs should allow voters who have lined up within 30 meters in front of the polling place to vote without interruption. Names of the voters in the line would be listed and called for their turn to cast their ballot, he said.

To cut on travel expenses, Velasco said, Comelec will deputize 2,000 DFA personnel to assist the agency in the implementation of the overseas absentee voting instead of sending local Comelec personnel.

Despite the one-month period for casting votes, Velasco urged all 580,000 OAVs to vote early to avoid long queues at Philippine foreign posts toward the end of the voting period.

“The May 2010 elections is crucial for our democracy and we encourage Filipinos abroad to exercise their right of suffrage. Let us not waste our opportunity to choose our leaders,” said Velasco.

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