Rumours of Voting Problems Dispelled for UAE’s Filipino Expats

Ramona Ruiz
April 19, 2016 Updated: April 19, 2016 08:00 PM

Joseph Antony, a resident of Abu Dhabi, with assistance from embassy staff, uses the vote-counting machine at precinct 1 in the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Filipinos who arrived at their embassy this week to cast their votes were relieved to find that rumours of possible problems with the election process and fears of fraud were unfounded.

Voting runs from April 9 until May 9, the day of national elections in the Philippines, at the embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai.

“I’ve heard [about] a lot of election anomalies, particularly on the machines not being secure and prone to cheating,” Edwin Arevalo, 61, an engineer in Abu Dhabi, said on Monday.

“It feels great to vote for the first time here at our embassy. The vote-counting machine at precinct 1 is working properly, so I’m assured that my vote was counted.”

Mr Arevalo, who was not able to vote in the 2013 mid-term elections, said claims of anomalous vote receipts were making the rounds on social media.

“I’m just relieved to know that it’s all hearsay,” he said.

One Facebook post showed a screenshot of a chat alleging that one person who voted for Rodrigo Duterte at the embassy in Abu Dhabi was given a receipt showing the name of another presidential candidate, Manuel Roxas II.

“When we first learned about it, we were worried about election glitches and receipt anomalies,” said Dan Abril, 30, a nurse in Abu Dhabi who voted with his wife Chesa at the embassy.

“I’m glad that all the names of our chosen candidates appeared on the voter receipts.”

Anthony Belleza, 31, a poll watcher, said he and 27 other observers, who are also Duterte supporters, have not witnessed any incidence of errors on voter receipts.

“Our role is to observe the elections and check for any irregularities,” Mr Belleza said. “So far, we’ve not come across any form of election fraud.”

Automated voting is taking place for the second time in the UAE.

The Philippines’ Commission on Elections (Comelec) has used a new security feature, the voter verification paper audit trail, or VVPAT, to ensure transparency and credibility of the voting process.

With VVPAT, the machine will print receipts. Voters can also verify their votes through the screen of the machine.

The voter can use the receipt to see whether or not his or her vote was counted correctly by the machine.

Rowena Daquipil, vice consul at the embassy, said there have been no official complaint about erroneous vote receipts and other election concerns.

“We would like to call on our compatriots to verify any news before sharing them on social media,” she said.

“Voting has been generally smooth so far. More than 1,200 cast their votes last Saturday, the highest voter turnout in a single day since voting began on April 9.”

Mobile phones and cameras are not allowed inside the polling precincts.

Comelec rules prohibited voters, watchers, and election inspectors, from taking photos of the ballots or vote receipts inside the precincts, as that violated the sanctity and secrecy of the ballot.

“Voters are not allowed to bring the printed receipts out of the polling place, and those caught will face one to six years imprisonment,” Ms Daquipil said.



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