Filipino voters express delayed absentee ballot concerns in open forum

SAN FRANCISCO — The day started out with a demonstration outside of the Philippine consulate.

Signs and chants that express the frustration of still not having OAV ballots were heard and seen by people passing by the consulate.

But by afternoon, this same group was inside airing their grievances to consul general Henry Bensurto Jr. for over an hour.

One of them, Attorney Rodel Rodis, found out that his name was on the list of voters who indicated that they want to fill out their ballot at the consulate.

But Rodis says he never made that change, because he prefers his ballot be mailed to his home.

Based on the U.S. postal service, all registered voters in his jurisdiction should have their ballots now.

“If you still did not receive your ballot today, please start inquiries with us. That should be a signal or clue for you to reach out to us.”

Despite the completion of mailed-out ballots — the group requests an extension of the overseas voting deadline, echoing the sentiments of Philippine ambassador Jose Romualdez.

“It should happen because it is morally right and even ambassador Romualdez said that he supports it because things were delayed, funding was delayed, and we should give more chances to people to vote. And the only way to do that is try to extend the limitations past beyond May 13.”

“If they can personally claim this ballots at their nearest consulate that they registered, we can process it and again, even if it’s beyond the deadline, we can ask the COMELEC, and be able to explain to them na, why there was a delay, and I’m sure the commission on elections are aware of exactly what the problems are,” said Romualdez.

The voters say they are also concerned that poll watchdog NAMFREL — or the National Movement for Free Elections — did not receive approval and access to data needed for its open election data website for the May polls.

“So what we ask the COMELEC and the DFA is to put back the namfrel otherwise this whole election would be a shame. It’s going to be rigged. It’s going to be manipulated. And we don’t want that to happen.”

Congen Bensurto says that while he does not have the authority to make such decisions — he will send these concerns up the proper channels.

“If that is the sentiment of the community, obviously, it’s not my call, but we will convey and we will relay that opinion or that suggestion of theirs back to the appropriate authorities back in Manila.”

For the Philippine consulate in San Francisco, ballots must be turned in by May 13th at 3 AM.

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