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Congen warns against illegal campaigning during voting

14 April 2019



By Vir B. Lumicao

Consul General Antonio Morales has stirred a hornet’s nest when he said Philippine laws ban campaigning during the entire overseas voting period, which for this year is set for April 13 to May13.

Filipino community leaders who attended a meeting at the Consulate on Mar 31 challenged the lawyer-diplomat, insisting campaigning has always been allowed at a park across Bayanihan Centre in Kennedy Town, where the voting is held.

Many of the veteran leaders said the ban had applied only to campaigning inside  Bayanihan from the time the first overseas election was held in 2004.

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In response, Morales read a section of Republic Act 9189, or Overseas Voting Act of 2003, which says: “It is a prohibited act for any person to engage in partisan political activity abroad during the 30-day overseas voting period.”

 “Eh kung tama ho iyan o mali, disagree kayo o agree, karapatan natin iyan, pero iyan ho ang nakasulat sa batas at hindi natin mababago. Iyan lang ho ang aming masasabi, na bawal sa batas ang mangampanya mula April 13 hanggang May 13,” Morales said.

The SUN has tried to get a clarification about the law from the Commission on Elections, but have yet to receive a reply.

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Morales, however, admitted that there is a grey area in the law because criminal laws of one country have no extra territorial application in another country. Still, he said everyone should be careful because if somebody complained, they could be prosecuted.

Deputy Consul General Germinia Usudan, who is also a lawyer, backed her boss. She said supporters should think twice about campaigning because if somebody files a complaint, it is their candidate who will suffer the consequences.

In a separate interview days after the meeting, Congen Morales insisted the law against campaigning during the entire overseas vote should be followed, but conceded this would be difficult to enforce abroad.

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“That is the letter of the law,” he said. Asked who might try to file a case using the said law, Morales said, “supporters of some candidates. They could file cases against those in the rival camps.”

He also said that in Singapore where he was last posted before Hong Kong, there is a law that prohibits candidates from other countries to do their campaigning there. “But I guess there is no such law in Hong Kong,” he said.

During the Filcom consultation, a woman asked why several first-time voters in the presidential election in 2016 were now missing from the list of 87,441 certified voters that the PCG had displayed in the public area.


Consul Robert Quintin, who is in charge of the overseas voting in Hong Kong, advised the woman to provide a list of those whose names had disappeared so he could ask the Comelec to revalidate them.

Also at the meeting were Consul Paulo Saret and Consul Fatima Quintin.

The discussions focused mainly on preparations for the upcoming overseas election, in which voters will elect 12 new senators from among 62 candidates and choose one party-list from 104 aspirants.

Morales said the midterm election is very important for the future of the nation and urged the voters to choose their candidates wisely.

Morales said the Consulate, which has been deputized by the Comelec to conduct the overseas voting in Hong Kong, has already formed the three bodies that will administer the vote: the Special Ballot Reception and Custody Group, the Special Board of Election Inspectors, and the Special Board of Canvassers.

First step in the voting process.


Nine SBEIs have been formed to oversee the process in each of the voting precincts. Each SBEI will have a chairman and two members who will administer the testing and sealing of vote-counting machines, receive and transmit election returns and ensure order in the precincts.

Robert Quintin said that one member in each SBEI has been certified by the Department of Science and Technology to be capable of operating the vote-counting machine

His wife, Fatima Quintin, reminded voters that taking photos of the ballot is prohibited, and that the SBEIs will require obedience in the precincts. 

The voting will start at 8am on Apr 13, a Saturday, and will close at 5pm. On Sundays, voting will be from 8am to 6pm, and on weekdays and Saturday, from 9am to 5pm.

On May 13, voting ends at 6pm.

Canvassing of election returns by the SBOC will begin right after the polling stations close. Hong Kong will be the center for canvassing the returns from the SAR, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Chongqing, Macau and Mongolia.

Morales will be the SBOC chairperson and Consul General Lilybeth Deapera of the PCG in Macau the vice chairperson.

Two other items on the agenda were the preparations for Philippine Independence Day activities in June and the controversial anti-measles vaccination of Filipino workers. 
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