More polling precincts needed for Pinoy voters in Hong Kong: group

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 10 2022 03:27 PM | Updated as of Apr 10 2022 04:03 PM

Overseas Filipinos queueing at the Bayanihan Kennedy Town Center in Hong Kong as overseas absentee voting for the 2022 elections starts April 10, 2022. Photo courtesy of Donna Franco
Overseas Filipinos queueing at the Bayanihan Kennedy Town Center in Hong Kong as overseas absentee voting for the 2022 elections starts April 10, 2022. Photo courtesy of Donna Franco

A Filipino labor group in Hong Kong called for more polling precincts after police in the city flagged a deluge of voters that lined up in Kennedy Town on Sunday, the first day of the Philippines' overseas absentee voting.

Bayan Hongkong and Macau Chairperson Eman Villanueva said the line of Filipino voters at the bayanihan center in Kennedy Town stretched up to 2 kilometers, alerting local authorities that went to the area to ensure that COVID-19 health protocols were being observed.

Hong Kong police asked those in charge of the precinct to discourage Filipinos from coming to the site to stop the queue from getting longer, Villanueva said.

As of January 2022, there are around 93,600 registered overseas absentee voters in Hong Kong, according to data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

But there are only 5 polling precincts in the Chinese special adminsitrative region, each with only one vote counting machine (VCM), said Villanueva, adding that each site would have to accommodate up to 20,000 voters.

"Tingin namin, dapat mas marami pa nga [ang precincts] kaysa doon sa previous election kasi previous election, mayroon ditong 10 precincts," Villanueva told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(We think there should be more precincts now compared to the previous election because in the previous election, we had 10 precincts.)

"Kung hindi man ibalik 'yong dati na 10 precincts 'yong gumagana at any given time, kung maaari dagdagan pa... because it's presidential elections, iba rin 'yong enthusiasm ng mga botante," he said.

(If we can't bring back the previous 10 precincts that operate at any given time, hopefully they'll add more... because it's the presidential elections, the voters' enthusiasm is different.)

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In a statement posted on Facebook, Philippine Consul General Raly Tejada urged Filipinos in Hong Kong to consider casting their votes on another day.

Tejada noted that polling precincts for overseas voters would be open for 30 days, giving Filipinos ample time to cast their ballots.

"Please consider the request of the Hong Kong police," he said.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez, in a separate TeleRadyo interview, echoed Tejada's appeal, noting that voting for overseas Filipinos "is actually until May 9."

"So marami pang panahon ang mga kababayan natin," Jimenez said as he also clarified that voting at Kennedy Town did not stop.

(So there's still a lot of time for our compatriots.)

Jimenez added that the Comelec has requested for additional VCMs in Hong Kong.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite called for an investigation into what he described as a "chaotic and disorganized election system" in Hong Kong.

In a statement, Gaite said he would ask the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms to summon the Comelec, Department of Foreign Affairs and Hong Kong consular office to look into the matter.

"We cannot allow the potential massive disenfranchisement of our overseas voters due to the ineptitude and lack of proper organizing by these officials," Gaite said.

Hong Kong boasts of having the second highest voter turnout in the 2016 presidential elections with 52,449 votes cast from the territory, Comelec data showed. It came next to the United Arab Emirates, which logged 62,103 ballots.

— With a report from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News