Overseas voting off to good start

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08:50 PM April 13th, 2013

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By: Philip C. Tubeza, April 13th, 2013 08:50 PM

Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Overseas absentee voting (OAV) for Filipinos abroad opened smoothly on Saturday, except in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where voting will commence on Tuesday, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Saturday.

No major snafu occurred as the month-long voting began for more than 700,000 registered Filipino voters overseas, said Jane Valeza, acting head of the Comelec election contests and adjudication department and a member of the  OAV committee.

Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. went to Hong Kong on Saturday to oversee the voting there.

“Everything was working. We did not see any major problems. We haven’t received a report even of minor problems,” Valeza said.

“The PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines were working” and the conduct of the voting was “peaceful,” she added.

Heavy turnout

Valeza said the Comelec was expecting a heavy turnout Sunday in Hong Kong and Singapore, particularly among the Filipino household service workers (HSWs) there.

“Usually it’s slow on the first day. You know Filipinos, they usually make the rush on the last day. The OAV usually peaks during its last week,” she said.

The turnout in the Middle East is also expected to be good, particularly on Thursdays and Fridays, which are the Filipino workers’ free days.

Free rides

“Our information campaign continues and we have also tapped the Filipino communities abroad to help,” Valeza said.

In Hong Kong and the Middle East, she said there were Filipinos offering free rides to the embassies to voters, so they wouldn’t have to spend money to go to the voting centers.

Filipino communities also offer free food and provide volunteers who help man the voting centers, she said.

The overseas voters may use the PCOS machines in seven places abroad or they could mail or personally deliver their ballots to Philippine diplomatic outposts.

The PCOS machines are in use in Hong Kong, Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Dubai and Kuwait.

According to the Comelec, the region with the highest number of OAV voters is the Middle East (281,372), followed by Asia (228,309), the Americas (125,604), Europe (75,666) and seafarers (26,808).

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