MANILA—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to implement a “vote anywhere” scheme in a bid to increase overseas absentee voter turnout in Halalan 2022.
Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, who is in charge of the Comelec's Overseas Absentee Voting division, said the poll body passed a resolution two weeks ago on the concept of "vote anywhere."
“When we say concept of vote anywhere, if you are a registered overseas voter in Singapore but during the election period, you happen to be in another post, like for example, you are in Hong Kong, all you have to do is you file a manifest that you intend to vote in that post even if you're not registered in Hong Kong, for as long as you are a registered overseas voter," Casquejo explained on Wednesday.
"That is one way to increase the voting turnout. Another is the implementation of two-way postage for postal voting posts," he said.
On Tuesday, advocate group Migrante International held a webinar with some OFWs who complained of delayed arrival of postal ballots.
The Comelec explained it may be because of delivery addresses that were not updated.
“May mga issue din kasi 'yung ating post na usually 'yung address na nilalagay is care of the embassy. 'Pag ang address na nilagay mo diyan is care of the embassy, you have to go to the embassy to get the ballot, but sometimes also 'yung mga addresses ng overseas voters hindi na accurate. Minsan kasi overseas voters, 'pag lipat ng building, 'di na matanggap ang balota,” Casquejo said.
“The overseas voters 'pag medyo naisip nila na lumipat sila ng ibang address, even in the same country … they have to inform the embassy na eto na address," he added.
Casquejo said the Comelec signed an agreement with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for the funding of two-way postage. The total cost is P357 million but only P111.912 million was allotted under the 2022 national budget.
Another cause of delayed arrival of postal ballots was the pandemic, he said.
“May mga issue talaga na medyo late natanggap 'yung postal ballot because of, again, we have to deal with COVID situation. We cannot make that as an excuse, minsan kasi medyo late na rin natanggap ni post 'yung official ballots," he said.
Casquejo said the DFA is doing its best in addressing gaps in communication to voters about the electoral process as Filipinos overseas complained of lack of information dissemination.
Meanwhile, the poll body announced the suspension of voting in some areas.
“We will be declaring a suspension of election in certain areas like in Baghdad, Iraq; in Tripoli, Libya; Algeria, Chad, Tunisia, Libya, Islamabad, (Pakistan), Afghanistan, and in Ukraine warzone. The total affected overseas voters are only 127, medyo maliit lang,” he said.
“Once the lockdown is lifted, we will proceed with the voting of Shanghai PE [Philippine embassy]. In Shanghai PE, we only have 1600 plus voters,” he added.
The poll body is still waiting for formal confirmation from the DFA as to the diplomatic posts’ capacity to conduct voting in the affected countries. The other areas meanwhile are nonparticipating posts.
Official ballots for all posts have been deployed, as of April 5, for all posts except for Dili, East Timor as that is waiting for flight availability, Casquejo said.
He added that all automated election system equipment, especially vote-counting machines, have been completely deployed as of March 29.