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Comelec’s 80% turnout goal seen as tall order

07 March 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

Consulate officials say they are not optimistic that the 80% turnout set by the Commission on Elections for overseas voters in the April-May general elections could be achieved.

A total of 93,049 Filipinos in Hong Kong have been certified by Comelec as eligible to vote, but judging from past elections, at least a third of that number may abstain.

The voting number is expected to be augmented by historically 1,500 to 2,000 seafarers casting their votes in Hong Kong.

“I mentioned in the update I sent to Comelec that our target turnout is 50% of the total registered voters, but Manila is imposing an 80% turnout,” Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, who oversees the election for the Consulate, told The SUN. 

“Let’s see (if that’s possible), because our highest turnout ever was in 2004, when we almost reached 70% for the whole overseas voting,” Vallespin said.

As in the past, the number of voters would be divided equally among the 10 special board of election inspectors that would be made up of a chairman and two members each.

Training will take place on Apr 5-7 for the 30 people who will comprise the 10 SBEIs that the Comelec had asked the Consulate to form, Vallespin said. The chairmen would come from the Consulate and its attached agencies like the Social Security System.

Only eight SBEI members were recruited from the Filipino community while the remaining 12 will be Hong Kong-based dependents of Consulate staff, said Vallespin.

“We haven’t imported anyone from the Philippines,” he said.

Vallespin said a team from the Comelec would be coming over to train the SBEI members on their role in the coming elections, particularly on how to operate the vote counting machines at the opening, closing, daily closing and final closing of the voting.

He said the VCMs are basically the same as the controversial PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines used in previous Philippine elections. The main difference is that the VCMs are bigger and broader, he added.

Comelec teams will visit posts with automated election systems to train the SBEI members, but for those where manual counting still takes place, the SBEIs will go to Manila to train on their roles.

Preparations for the coming elections, which will be held at the Bayanihan Center in Kennedy Town, were discussed by the Consulate with Filcom leaders in a meeting on Feb 15.

Heavy turnout of voters is expected on the five Sundays starting April 10 to May 8, especially on May 1 and 2, the latter having been declared as a statutory holiday. 

The Bayanihan polling precincts will open at 8am and close at 4pm on the first day of voting on April 10, and at 9am to 5pm on subsequent days except for the last day on May 9, they will stay open until 7pm. 
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