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Home Columns JGL Eye Filipino Diplomats Must Be Given Overtime Pay and Congratulations for Superb OAV Canvass and Tabulation
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Columns - JGL Eye
Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Thursday, 13 May 2010 15:31

 

JGL Eye

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

(Journal Group Link International)

  

The Overseas-Absentee Voting (OAV) Must Also Be Automated

 

C HICAGO (JGLi) – Now, I know why teachers in the Philippines deserved a bonus when they man the polling centers.

 

I am, of course, referring to the teachers’ performance on past elections.

 

After observing the marathon canvassing of votes for more than 24 hours, non-stop, at the Philippine Consulate in Chicago, Illinois last May 10, I can say that the thousands of teachers all over the country must have taken their own sweet time in manning the first automated election system (AES) in the Philippines because they did not go thru the exhausting motions of canvassing the votes.

 

I suggest the hundreds of consulate staff all over the world, who acted as polling clerks last Monday, should be given not only an overtime pay but also a sincere pat on their backs.

 

Yes, Monday was a holiday for consulate staff all over the world. But the day was no picnic either as they canvassed thousands of absentee ballots.

 

But it could be a walk in the park, if they too, like those in Hongkong and Singapore, will also have their own AES in place in the next national elections.

 

Counting manually, like the teachers in the Philippines used to do, the consulate staff in Chicago led by new Consul General Leo M. Herrera-Lim had to divide his staff into three voting precincts so as to spread the canvassing of approximately 1,500 ballots in three equal parts.

 

 

UNHOLY HOUR

 

B ut because these May 10, 2010 presidential elections were the first time that the start of the canvassing was synchronized with Philippine time and date – May 10 at 6 p.m. Philippine time, the consulate staff were required to be in office on before the unholy hour of 5 a.m. Chicago time.

 

Naturally because I did not want to miss a bit, I, too, struggled to be there that early, although I am a late riser.

 

When I arrived at the consulate, the three and only poll watchers for the Liberal Party – Marlon L. Pecson, Carlos Cortes, Jr. and Manny Zambrano – welcomed me.

 

There, I saw ConGen Herrera-Lim heading precinct No. 1 as chairman of Special Board of Election Inspectors (SBEI). He read the votes while cultural officer Bert Salvador and visa officer Ma. Rosenia L. Centeno, acting as poll clerks, listed them.

 

At precinct No. 2 was Deputy Consul General Orontes V. Castro, who was also SBEI chairman of the precinct, with documentary officer Rimen Austria and finance officer Danilo Cabanayan as poll clerks.

And at precinct No. 3 was Consul Roberto Bernardo, who acted as SBEI chairman, while recording and communication officer Dulce Salvador and collecting officer Bong de los Santos as poll clerks.

 

TYPICAL PRECINCT

 

A typical precinct usually had 527 valid votes and 31 invalid votes. Invalid votes were those ballots that used envelopes other than “officially prescribed envelope(s) of the COMELEC”; those with no right thumb mark in the ballot coupon (for which I struggled to find an inkpad when filing up by the last minute; I found the ink from my computer printer. But what happens if the voter has an amputated right arm?); those with no signature in the space provided in the “Official Ballot Envelope”; and those mailed with post-mark, received on or after 7:00 o’clock in the evening on May 10, 2010 (Philippine time).

 

Canvassing 100 ballots and manually listing them on the tally sheets took an average of four hours. With each precinct having more than 500 ballots, the canvassing and listing of votes was completed after almost 24 hours.

 

Just imagine if manual counting was still done in last May 10 elections. And there were 76,000 polling precincts to do the canvassing of votes in the Philippines, where voters could number into more than 700 for each precinct.

 

The turnout of voters is normally more than 50 percent while overseas, the turnout of overseas voters could only log more than 20 percent, similar to voter turnout in U.S. elections like Chicago.

 

ABSENTEE VOTING SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED

 

S ince, it could be challenging for overseas voters to come to various embassies and consulates in droves to vote in one day, like they do it back home, I suggest that Congress should encourage absentee voting for Overseas Filipinos. One valid argument going for absentee voters is the long-distance residence of voters from the nearest Philippine consulates.

 

And the turnout in next elections could likely double with more overseas voters, casting their votes if registration will become year-round. And if voters can notify various missions months in advance of their forwarding addresses in case they change addresses.

 

Besides, hundreds, if not thousands, of Filipino seamen, could be at sea during elections.

 

Otherwise, there should not be a repeat of thousands of absentee ballots being returned to sender.

 

With the success of the automated elections back home, it is very likely that Overseas Filipino voters may one day go automated as well.

 

Perhaps, an embassy official will no longer be hand-carrying hard copies of canvassing records to Congress to conserve thousands of dollars for the expenses of the trip to the Philippines. He can just email the results to Congress with the hard copies of the results to be sent through diplomatic pouches in case of election protest when votes are too close to call among candidates.

 

Depending on the efficacy of automated voting in Singapore and Hongkong, Congress can make a decision whether to go or not to go with the automated elections worldwide for Overseas Filipinos in the next elections. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)  # # #

 


 

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