The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Commission on Elections have recenty inked a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to pilot test the automated voting of Filipino overseas absentee voters in Hong Kong and Singapore.
A total of 128, 272 Filipino voters in both countries are expected to cast their ballots in the first ever automated Philippine elections abroad. It is also said that the Philippine Government has set aside P40 million for the planned automated voting.
While the automation of the Filipino overseas vote is indeed a welcome development, I believe there are some questions that the COMELEC and the DFA should address:
The first thing Philippine election authorities should address is the question of HOW are they going to go about the automated balloting in the two OFW rich countries. They say that more than 128,000 Filipino voters in both countries are expected to participate; so if the automated counting machines (Precinct Count Optical Scan) can accomodate only 1,000 voters per precinct according to the COMELEC, does it mean the COMELEC will be deploying 128 PCOS machines in HK and Singapore?
Second, where does the government plan to set up those machines? Will they be placed only inside the Philippine Consulate or will they be scattered to different locations around HK and Singapore?
According to the COMELEC’s Calendar of Activities for the 2010 elections, overseas absentee voters will start casting their ballots starting April 10, 2010 until May 10, 2010. If they are going to automated the HK, Singapore vote, will the machines be deployed there for a period of one month?
What if a machine breaks down, will there be spare machines or will those be coming from the Philippines as well?
Lastly – and I think this is the most important – who are going to man the PCOS machines for the possible month long balloting? Will it be the Consulate officials? If so, are they trained and familiar with the technology?
The government should address this questions right away so as to forestall any apprehension of a possible wholesale disenfranchisement of thousands of voters in HK and Singapore.
These two countries have been consistently placed among the top 10 countries who have the highest number of registered Filipino overseas absentee voters. It would be unforgivable if their votes wouldn’t count in May 10, 2010.
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