Comelec mulls to suspend overseas voting in Afghanistan, Ukraine

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MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday stated that it is considering the options of either suspending overseas voting or even declaring a failure of elections in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Comelec Director Sinoa Bea Wee-Lozada said in a House hearing that the registered overseas voters in these two countries would not be able to cast their votes as a result of the ongoing mandatory repatriation there.

“There are two other countries that we likewise have pending reports from the DFA that we need also to declare possible suspension or even failure of elections in those two countries, specifically Afghanistan due to the mandatory repatriation,” Wee-Lozada said.

Based on the Comelec data, there are 1,697,090 registered Filipino voters overseas, as well as 27 in Afghanistan and 15 in Ukraine.

After the imposition of a lockdown due to the increase in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases, Comelec temporarily suspended overseas voting in Shanghai, China.

The overseas voting is also suspended in countries with security concerns including Algeria, Chad, Tunisia, Libya, and Iraq, she added.

According to Wee-Lozada, the suspension or failure to hold the election affected a total of 1,972 registered voters.

The overseas voting began on April 10 and will continue until the election day on May 9 in the Philippines. They will be voting for national candidates only or those running for the positions of president, vice-president, senator, and party-list groups.

Comelec Executive Director Bartolome Sinocruz Jr., meanwhile, provided an update on the general preparations of the poll body, like the automated election system (AES) procurement, trainings especially on the use of digital signature, deployment of vote counting machines and official ballots and printing of the official ballots, among others.

According to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Overseas Voting Secretariat (OVS) Director Zoilo Velasco, out of 91 foreign service posts, 90 posts are already undertaking their voting.

Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Joseph Del Mar Yap stated that voter turnout has been quite high thus far after 11 days of voting.

Over 84,000 registered voters, he said, are currently in Singapore.

He also addressed and clarified the issue circulating on social media regarding the allegation the embassy was issuing so-called “pre-shaded ballots” to its voters.

Meanwhile, Dubai Consul General Renato Duenas clarified there was no incident report on pre-shaded ballots either from the watcher or voter and that all ballots in Dubai were accounted for.

Earlier, Commissioner Marlon Casquejo stated that it is not possible to extend the voting period for Filipinos living abroad since the legislation only permits it to be held until the actual election day in the Philippines.

“The extension is not happening because we only have until May 9, Philippine time. We cannot extend beyond May. That would be a violation of the Constitution,” he said.

The idea of extending the polls came after reports that there were delays at the start of the voting period on April 10.

“The delayed arrival of ballots has already been resolved. Just a one-day delay,” Casquejo said.

House committees to hold hearings during break

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Spread the loveMANILA – The House of Representatives has authorized for its committees to conduct hearings during the five-week congressional break, extending until late April.