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3,285 Filipinos cast ballots on first day of overseas voting in HK

10 April 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap 

The line going to Bayanihan extends to as far as the eye could see

Amid the strictest anti-pandemic restrictions in Hong Kong, a total of 3,285 Filipinos managed to cast their ballots on the first day of overseas voting for the 2022 presidential election in the Philippines.

However, only 3,282 votes were counted as three ballots were rejected due to unnecessary marks on them and unintentional damage.

The turnout came as a pleasant surprise to Consulate officials, given the strict gathering regulations that forced them to comply with the police request to stop people from queuing up outside the Bayanihan Centre in Kennedy Town less than four hours after polling began.

Consul Raly Tejada told The SUN that as early as 11:30am they already received a warning from the police that they were having a difficult time controlling the crowd.


The police team leader, a female officer, went up to Bayanihan and requested Congen Tejada to stop allowing people to queue.

“What worried them more was the steady stream of people,” said Congen Tejada. “Their spotters at Kennedy Town MTR station were reporting huge numbers still coming. Police recommended we already inform the public that voter turnout was heavier than expected and that the line has stretched more than 2 kms.”

By this time, the police estimated that more than 3,000 people were already in the area, so the Consulate was forced to tell the public of the problem.


“By 11:50am, upon the request of the police we came out to talk to the people to ask them to vote on another day,” said Congen. “The police were very worried about the situation and rightly so.”

Consulate officials fear that the month-long voting could be halted altogether if a Covid-19 outbreak is recorded from among the thousands who had lined up to be among the first to vote for the country’s next president, vice-president, 12 new senators and a party-list.

Congen Tejada negotiates with police team leader before call to stop the queue was issued

Congen Tejada was nevertheless grateful for the unexpected heavy turnout on the first day of the overseas vote.

“In my view the enthusiasm showed by our kababayans in Hong Kong is exceptional. I am very proud of them for showing up on the first day,” he said.


“Nonetheless we have to give regard to the anti-pandemic measures, so I appeal to everyone to consider voting on another day. We have 30 days naman po so we have have another 29 days."

The heavy turnout also surprised many Filipino community leaders who were out early in anticipation of the 8am poll opening, but they also regretted that hundreds, if not thousands, had to be turned away because the precincts this year were only half the usual number.

Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of United Filipinos-Migrante Hong Kong said, “The Consulate should press Comelec (Commission on Elections) to send us more vote-counting machines (VCMs) so there will be more precincts to serve our voters,” she said.


“A lot of our registered voters may end up not being able to cast their ballots because there are now only five precincts instead of the 10 we have always had.”

With more than 93,000 registered voters, she said it will be difficult to even come close to the  49% turnout recorded in the last presidential election in 2016 if only five precincts and five VCMs are in service.

Balladares-Pelaez joined other Filcom leaders all over the world in a press conference last week to hit out at Comelec’s act of slashing the OV budget by half, and at foreign posts abroad not acting quickly enough to ensure a smooth conduct of elections.


Congen Tejada said the Consulate has already brought up the need for more VCMs to Comelec so they can open additional precincts soon.

CG says 5 more precincts should be added within this week

“We are working hard to open another five precincts para ma accommodate lahat ng tao,” he said. “I am positive that within this week baka mapapatakbo na natin.” (we could get them working already).

The overflow crowds and the shortage of VCMs aside, Congen Tejada said he didn’t see any major problems affecting the conduct of the elections.

At the start, there were problems with the ballots getting stuck in the VCMs but he said these were just slight hiccups that happened because the operators forgot to open the receptacle for the ballots.

Congen said this happened even in his own precinct, as he was the second voter to cast his ballot.

The first was Baneng Mendez of Unifil-Migrante, who camped outside Bayanihan starting at 9am on Saturday, to make sure she could keep her record of being first in line for the third-year running.

Compared to the previous overseas voting which were held every three years starting in 2004, there were only a few people who never made it to a precinct - either because they failed to make it to the early cut-off for queuing, their names were not in the certified list of voters or because they had been delisted for failing to vote in the last two consecutive elections.

One of them was an elderly man who presented both his HKID card and a voter’s ID, but his name was no longer in the registry though he said he voted in 2016.

When told that he needed to register again, he told the Consulate staff tasked with verifying voters’ credentials to just put back his name in the registry, not realizing that only Comelec could add or amend the voters’ list.

Another woman who ended up lining for the bus back home instead of into Bayanihan, said she took one look at the end of the queue and was disheartened to see that it had extended to beyond two blocks away.

She said she’d just ask her employer to allow her to go out on a regular day so she wouldn’t have to line up just to vote.

A few voters had their names misspelled or they were still listed under their maiden surnames, but they were allowed to vote, with a reminder to get the matters sorted out when registration opens for the next election.

For most of those who did manage to cast their ballots, the long wait was the crunch.

First stop is name check and assignment of precinct number

One voter who got to finally stand outside her precinct by 11am said she arrived at Bayanihan at 7am, or an hour before the doors opened. She said she was hungry and tired and just wanted to get through the process.

Another voter who nearly did not make it to the cut-off time said she was anxious not to be turned away as she had a flight to catch Monday. She said she got to the tail-end of the queue at 11:30am, and managed to get to her precinct just before 6pm.

She said she had a big breakfast so did not mind having to give up lunch, but was already looking forward to hopping onto a taxi to go home as her whole body was aching from having to stand up for so long.

While in the queue, she said she tried to convert those who were standing close by vote for her chosen candidates, but failed because they were all set on their choices.

It took some voters up to 6 hours to get to their assigned precincts

Still, she was happy that everyone who was already in line was allowed to get in and vote, despite the published closing time of 5pm.

The month-long overseas voting will be held every day from 8am to 5pm at Bayanihan Centre, except on the last day, May 9, when voting will be extended until 7pm. This is the only day when all registered voters in the Philippines will cast their ballots.
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