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Day 9: Lines grow, tempers flare amid flood of voters

18 April 2016

Voters lining up for their turn to cast their ballots fill up Bayanihan Center's basketball court.
Overseas Filipinos eager to choose a new President turned out in full force yesterday, April 17, at the Bayanihan Centre to vote in the 2016 national elections, making up the biggest crowd yet in the first nine days of the month-long exercise.

At the end of the day, 6,367 voters had exercised their right of suffrage, almost doubling to 14,200 the nine-day total in the overseas voting for Hong Kong-based Filipinos.

Waiting time for voters from the verification counter to the precincts on the upper floors of the Bayanihan building was about 2 hours 30 minutes, as good weather encouraged thousands to descend in droves on the Kennedy Town voting center.

The line of people stretched from outside the election secretariat in Bayanihan to well beyond the Jockey Club Family Clinic about 200 meters away.

One vote counting machine malfunctioned, holding up 15 voters in Precinct 501 from inserting their ballots for about a quarter of an hour and fraying the nerves of some people waiting in the holding area for their turn to go up to the precincts.

The impatient ones heckled Consular staff in the secretariat, causing Vice Consul Alex Vallespin to lose his cool and shout back at them: “Kung sisigaw pa kayo, palalabasin namin kayo.”

Then turning to the media, he said:  “Puwede naming gawin iyon, di po ba?”

It took about 15 minutes for the consular staff to troubleshoot the machine and get it running again.

Dozens more of would-be voters found out their names were not on the voters list.  It turned out they had either been delisted by the Commission on Elections for failing to vote in the two previous national elections, or had registered last year but their names did not appear on the list.

One voter from Saikung who listed up last year in the overseas voter registration at the Consulate was disappointed when her name was missing from the Comelec voters list.

“They told me to come back and bring my registration slip so I could vote,” she said.

Another woman, Arlyn Panes from Mid-Levels, said she had registered several years ago and was surprised not to find her name on the list.

When asked if she voted in the past two national elections, she said no. She said she was not aware of the Comelec deactivating nearly 14,000 Hong Kong-based voters from the list for failure to exercise their rights.

Yesterday’s voting took on a festive air as campaigners for various candidates and groups greeted busload after busload of Filipinos arriving at the Kennedy Town bus terminus.

A group of about 20 male and female supporters of presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte of PDP-Laban stood a couple of meters away from a handful of campaigners for his rival Mar Roxas.

At the foot of the exit stairs from the voting center, four Duterte supporters were taking an exit poll of departing voters. They had a huge count of voters who claimed to have picked their candidate.


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