Consulate official: ‘keep the faith’ amid concerns over cheating, leaked data

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., – With just over two weeks left before the deadline to vote for the Philippine presidential elections, consulate officials all over the country are urging kababayans to cast their ballots, with confidence that their votes would count.

But for such an important election, San Francisco Consul General Henry Bensurto, Jr. said it can’t be helped that overseas voters want to make sure their ballots are properly cast.

Some doubts have been raised when supposed copies of ballots surfaced online, showing different instructions.  One instructed voters to encircle the oval for your chosen candidate while  another indicated the oval to be shaded.

Bensurto said the only correct ballot they provide for voters are the ones that instruct voters to shade the oval, not encircle it.  “Just make sure that you’re able to shade it within the circle. Don’t shade outside of it. It’s also important that you fully shade the entire oval for the machine to properly process it,” said Bensurto.

Some overseas voters are also concerned with election glitches and receipt anomalies.  A Facebook post has surfaced, alleging that a voter from the Middle East who voted for one candidate was given a receipt showing the name of another candidate.

Bensurto said when overseas voters cast their ballots physically at the consulates, they will get to verify their votes through the screen of a machine provided by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).  They will also be provided with receipts to see whether or not their votes were counted correctly by the machine.

He explained, “That’s the reason why you have a receipt, to make sure that whatever you put in your ballot would reflect it.  If, for some reason, what was on the receipt came out different, then you have to bring that to the attention of officials at your consulate.”

A month after the database of the COMELEC was hacked, a website surfaced Thursday that posted the contents of the personal information of about 55 million voters.  The leak included names, birthdates, addresses, citizenship details, passport number and fingerprint data.

Bensurto admitted that overseas Filipinos may be among the victims. But he reiterated COMELEC’s assurance that the leaked data cannot be used for rigging the elections.

COMELEC plans to use a different set of servers and a different website for election results.

Bensurto stressed, “In the state of democracy that we are in now and COMELEC is really working hard to ensure that all our votes are cast and that they are counted, we have to keep that faith.”

Based on the final figures of the COMELE, there are over 1.3 million overseas Filipino voters registered for the 2016 polls. Election officials hope many kababayans would not only cast their ballots but would actually have confidence that those votes would actually count.

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