PHL embassy opens space for voters opting to fill up ballots on-the-spot despite mail-in system

THE Philippine Embassy in Rome has received clearance from the DFA-Overseas Voting Secretariat to open the Embassy premises for OFW registered voters who wish to fill up and return their ballots on the same day to the diplomatic post, despite a system of mail-in ballots for that area.

The clearance is important to the OFWs, some of whom earlier complained about being “shooed away” on Sunday by embassy staff when they attempted to fill up their ballots on the spot after picking them up, instead of going home, and then mailing them back later.

 “The public is notified that the DFA-OVS authorized today the Embassy to set up a space in the Embassy premises where voters, who previously communicated to the Embassy their intention to personally claim their ballot before the deadline, can claim their mailing packets to accomplish their ballots and return the ballots at the Embassy on the same day,” the Embassy said in a statement.

The Embassy also advised they will be open during Holy Week to cater to OFWs who wish to claim their ballots in person.

During the press conference of PDP-Laban Sunday, a Filipina registered voter showed a video of OFWs shading their ballots outside The Philippine Chancery in Rome.

“Napaganda po ng ating Philippine Embassy sa Rome, napakalaki. Ang di namin maintindihan, kaming mga bumuboto wala po kaming place para fill-up-an ang aming mga boto. Pagkakuha ng kanilang balota, lalabas pa sila ng Embassy at saka dun sila mag-fill up. Tumatawid sila dun sa may gilid ng hospital, sa tapat ng Embassy,” Daisy Villanueva Solomon said during a videocall shown live. 

[Our embassy in Rome is beautiful and quite big. What we cannot understand is why us voters cannot have space to fill up our ballots. After getting their ballots, OFWs must step outside the embassy and fill up there. They must cross near the hospital, across the Embassy].

Another Filipina, Luisita Raquel Garcia, posted on Facebook that a staff of The Philippine Embassy allegedly shooed her away from the gates of the Chancery. She said she sat on the chair of the Chancery’s security guard to fill out her ballot. 

“I said I’m a cancer patient but a man from the embassy shooed me away. The security guard then moved his chair away from me because the staff was getting upset, Because of the side effects of my medicines, I wasn’t feeling well, but I was forced to step out onto the sidewalk and stood there to shade [my ballot],” Garcia wrote, partly in Filipino.

Filipinos in Italy are supposed to cast their votes through mail-in ballots. The Embassy in Rome or the Consulate General in Milan will mail the ballots to their registered addresses and then the OFWs will send their ballots back to the Embassy or Consulate via mail. 

Those who opted to claim their ballots in person at the Embassy may do so before the deadline on April 17.

However, those who claimed their ballots last Sunday apparently decided to cast their votes right there. 

Dubai, UAE

The Philippine Consulate General in Dubai, meanwhile, has warned Filipinos working in the United Arab Emirates that they can be imprisoned for spreading fake news even if it concerns the elections in the Philippines.

“The Consulate strongly advises the public against posting and/or spreading unverified and/or unsubstantiated allegations online, whether on social media and messaging applications, as these are prohibited under UAE laws,” the Consulate said.

The statement was posted on the Consulate’s Facebook account as the Consulate dispelled rumors that a voter in Dubai discovered a pre-shaded ballot. “The Consulate firmly denies this. No such incident or anything remotely similar or occurred was reported,” it said.

Spreading rumors or publishing false news in UAE is punishable by one year in jail and a fine of Dh100,000 (P1.4 million).

Singapore’s case

Earlier, a Filipina data scientist based in Singapore claimed she got a “pre-shaded” ballot when she voted Monday at the Philippine Embassy in the city-state.

The Embassy immediately clarified that the ballot given to Filipino registered voter Cheryl Abundo was not pre-shaded but rather a “spoiled ballot” from one of the voters last Sunday, the first day of overseas absentee voting for 2022 presidential elections. 

“The Embassy is aware of only one incident where one spoiled ballot from yesterday’s voting exercise was inadvertently and unintentionally given to a voter this morning,” the Embassy said in a statement.

Business Mirror reached out to Abundo through her Facebook account user “Cheryl Ab” and she agreed to publish her post and identify her. Abundo used to be a student in Singapore and now works as a data scientist in the city-state. 

From the beginning of her post, Abundo acknowledged that the incident “could be an honest mistake” but she decided to post this incident for the Filipino voters to be vigilant of their votes.


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