It's the home stretch of the May 9 Philippine presidential elections, and as more voters have received their ballots, the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles has continued to process completed ballots on its two vote counting machines.
But while the feeding of ballots is a welcomed sight for poll watchers, they've followed through on a major concern. They have begun a formal petition to request the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend the overseas voting period.
"During our dialogue with [Consul General Edgar Badajos] Wednesday last week, we mentioned about the delay in the receipt of the ballots by the voters so we requested for an extension in the overseas absentee voting and they suggested that we send a petition to the Comelec. They agreed to forward the petition," poll watcher Xenia Tupas said.
In their request, voters cited a provision in Republic Act No. 9189 that says the Comelec must transmit ballots to embassies and consulates no later than 75 days prior to an election. After some delays in shipping and customs, Los Angeles only received election paraphernalia in early April. The ballots in the LA consular district were all sent out to voters by April 22nd, 17 days before the May 9th polls.
The consulate has acknowledged receipt of the petition and said it will bring it before the Comelec. Advocates hope that if changes can't be made in time for this election, these issues can be considered for future polls.
"They just want to stick to what’s provided in the Republic Act concerning overseas absentee voters so maybe in the future there might be amendments to the law that would allow extensions," Tupas noted.
In the meantime, the ballot feeding continues with LA closing in on some 2,000 completed ballots. However, some mistakes continue to be made by some voters, causing their ballots to become invalid. Some of these mistakes include voters signing in the wrong places, and placing the seal sticker on the ballot rather than on the envelope.
Despite those votes not being counted, the voters will fulfill requirements to not skip more than two consecutive elections.
"The saving grace is that the person is marked as having voted," Special Board of Election Inspectors chair Ambrosio Brian Enciso said.
Despite a handful of spoiled and invalid ballots, officials said they are pleased with the results so far and are projecting the 2022 election to surpass the 15% turnout it has seen in past polls. The consulate also said they will make a formal request to the Comelec, asking if they can do ballot feedings daily during the final week of the overseas voting period.