HK migrants welcome increase of vote machines from 5 to 10

Herbert Bautista asks COMELEC to investigate reported anomaly in counting of votes

[UPDATED] Migrant workers in Hong Kong (HK) hailed the Commission on Elections’ (COMELEC) decision to increase the number of vote counting machines (VCM) from five to 10 following the outcry resulting from hundreds of overseas absentee voters turned away last April 10.

The group United Filipinos (UNIFIL) Migrante-HK welcomed COMELECs announcement to double the number of VCM it said may help prevent a repeat of Sunday’s “serious setbacks” on the first day of overseas absentee voting (OAV) in the Chinese territory.

“The prompt outcry of the vigilant members of the Filipino migrant community drew attention to the serious setbacks on the first day of voting which resulted in this positive development in OAV in HK,” the group said in a statement.

UNIFIL Migrante-HK said it was unfortunate that many overseas Filipino workers (OFW) had to experience long waiting times, long queues and being turned away before COMELEC finally acknowledged the problem.

Earlier, the group repeatedly raised alarms over the poll body’s decision to send half the number of VCMs it used to send over it added may result to “disenfranchisement and distress” to voters.

“In our calculation, only about 40% of the 93,000 registered voters (in HK)  would be able to cast their vote with five VCMs operational,” it said.

It also criticized the decision of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to slash the budget for overseas voting by 80%.

UNIFIL Migrante-HK reported that snaking queues of OFWs formed at the Bayanihan Centre entrance last Sunday, resulting in voters queuing for about 4 to 5 hours before they could vote.

The Philippine Consulate in HK admitted that its personnel stopped voters from joining the queue as early as 11:30 AM as their attention has already been called by the local police at possible violations to health protocols.

HK is suffering another surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases in recent days.

“We will continue to closely monitor the OV in Hong Kong to ensure there will be no further disenfranchisement of our fellow OFWs. We demand clean and honest elections. We demand a government accountable to its people,” UNIFIL Migrante-HK said.

OFWs in HK queuing to cast their votes. (Migrante HK photo)

VCM ‘anomaly

Meanwhile, a video of a HK voter has gone viral complaining that her vote for senatorial candidate Herbert Bautista has been counted by the VCM to fellow aspirant Ibrahim Albani instead.

OFW Thelma Cornejo made the revelation in an informal exit poll video by vlogger Ironjock Jermice posted last April 12.

She said she does not know Ibrahim and did not vote for him.

She added that she was careful in filling up her ballot.

Cornejo said she has protested to the Board of Election Inspectors who told her it will be reported to the COMELEC.

The video has generated 103 thousand views, nearly 6 thousand reactions and more than 800 comments.

Bautista, reacting to the video, said he calls on the COMELEC to investigate the report.

“Early reports of voting anomaly should not be brushed aside as so-called isolated incidents. The integrity of the electoral process in all levels must be paramount,” Bautista said.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Voters turned away on 1st day of overseas absentee voting in Hong Kong, Migrante reports

Many migrant workers in Hong Kong who wanted to cast their votes on the first day of overseas absentee voting (OAV) were turned away, a Filipino migrant organization reported.

United Filipinos-Migrante Hong Kong leader Dolores Balladares Pelaez said in a Facebook broadcast the Philippine Consulate in the Chinese territory started refusing voters wanting to cast votes before 12 noon today .

Pelaez said that the five vote counting machines (VCM) sent by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to the territory could not cope with huge number of registered voters who turned up on the first day of the OAV.

“Five VCM are not enough to accommodate the 93 thousand of Filipinos here in Hong Kong. The 10 they sent us in previous elections were not even enough,” she said in Filipino.

Pelaez said they fear that many Filipinos in Hong Kong may be disenfranchised if the COMELEC fails to fix the problem.

“Those refused to cast their votes are very angry. Sunday is the only day they could exercise their right to vote,” Pelaez said.

The OAV in the territory is being held at the Bayanihan Center at Victoria Road, Kennedy town.


Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite called for an immediate investigation of the “chaotic and disorganized” voting in Hong Kong and raised fears of “potential disenfranchisement of thousands of voters.

 “We cannot allow the potential massive disenfranchisment of our overseas voters due to the ineptitude and lack of proper organizing by these officials. The slashing of funds by the DBM for the overseas voting must also be looked into,” Gaite said in a statement.

Gaite saidthat he will ask the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms of the House of Representatives to summon the COMELEC, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Hongkong Consular office to investigate the incident.

READ: Migrante Int’l warns of massive voters’ disenfranchisement among OFWs

The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong has yet to issue a statement on the matter. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Migrante Int’l warns of massive voters’ disenfranchisement among OFWs

Group blames Comelec’s late preparations

Overseas absentee voting may be far lower in this year’s elections, a migrant group warned, saying “concerning” late preparations by the poll body are to be blamed if it happens.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Migrante International (MI) said many overseas Filipinos may be disenfranchised or, at least, will not be given enough time to choose the best candidates for national elective posts.

MI said these are “due to the utter disregard of government officials in foreign posts on the significance of this year’s OAV presidential elections following the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Overseas absentee voting (OAV) starts on April 10 where overseas registered Filipino voters may vote for the country’s next president, vice president and 12 senators.

Migrant Filipino workers in Hong Kong line up outside the polling precinct in the 2016 elections. (Photo by Bayan Muna Hong Kong)

MI pointed out that in Hong Kong, the Consulate General in the Chinese territory held no meetings or consultations on the conduct of the elections until a Filipino community leader wrote to raise their concerns regarding the OAV.

“As of this writing, inspections of the ballot, voting machines and the place where the elections are still to be held,” MI said.

MI said its chapters in other countries report problems on polling places accessibility, poor mailing system of ballots, payment of postage stamps, as well as late delivery of and inspections of voting counting machines and other election paraphernalia.

DFA infographic

Low AOV turnout remains a problem despite a substantial increase in registered overseas voters, MI added.

There are 1.8 milliion registered overseas voters this year, the Department of Foreign Affairs reported.

The Commission on Elections Office of Overseas Voting said with Middle East & Africa leads with 786,997 registered overseas voters, Asia Pacific with 450,282; North & Latin America with 306,445; and Europe with 153,491.

In the 2016 presidential elections however, only 31.45 % cast their votes, a number that substantially decreased at 18.47% in the 2019 mid-term elections.

MI said their group continues to hold hope this year’s polls would elect new leaders who will address the root causes of forced migration in order for Filipinos to stop opting to work overseas. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)