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Migrant leader blames lack of information effort for low voter turnout

03 May 2019



By Vir B. Lumicao

The low turnout in the month-long overseas election has prompted Consul General Antonio Morales to urge Filipinos in Hong Kong to come out and vote.

Dolores Balladares-Pelaez

He received a favorable response on April 28 when 4,200 voters trooped to Bayanihan Centre in Kennedy Town to cast their ballots, sending the turnout rate shooting up to nearly 19% from below 14% on Saturday.


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But it remains to be seen if the upsurge will continue and bring this year’s result closer to the 28% achieved in the 2013 midterm elections, or even better, with just 15 days left for other Filipino overseas voters in Hong Kong to vote.

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Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, says the Consulate has only itself to blame for the low numbers because it did not exert enough effort to conduct an information drive before the elections.

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She said this was evident during the registration period which ended in September last year. In previous elections, the Consulate had been very proactive in reaching out to the Filipino community to encourage voters to register.

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“This period walang nangyari, tapos wala ring naganap na community meetings para sana ma-discuss kung paano magtutulungan ang Konsulado at ang Filipino community para i-encourage ang ating mga kababayan para bumoto,” she said.

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Balladares-Pelaez said hopefully the Consulate reaches out to the community soon and call a meeting to discuss how everyone could work together to improve the situation. “I think marami pang magagawa eh,” she said.

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The Consulate met community leaders two weeks before the elections but it focused only on telling voters the dos and don’ts, and did not include discussions on how to mobilize community support every step of the way, like what was done ahead of the 2016 presidential ballot.

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Consul Fatima Quintin hinted that one reason for the sluggish turnout could be the voters’ holding off for the holidays that are still to come. “Ngayon siguro, better distributed yung voters kasi may holiday sa May 1 at May 13,” she said.

She also said voter turnout in midterm elections had been historically low, partly explaining the low numbers in the current elections, but voters should realize the significance of this exercise.

Balladares-Pelaez sees a deeper reason for the low voter interest.

“Marami ring na-frustrate eh, parang yung high expectation mo noong presidential election na maraming mababago, maayos ang buhay ng OFW (pero) after three years wala namang significant changes. Parang yung ganoong mga pangyayari, nagkaroon ng frustration yung mga OFWs, so nakadagdag pa iyon,” she said.

She said these voters have to be encouraged to have faith in the elections again. She said these issues need to be addressed because it is good for OFWs to choose their candidates.

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