WASHINGTON DC — Only 50 percent of postage funding from the Philippine Commission on Elections, or COMELEC, were admitted to the Philippine embassies and consulates in North America. Officials have only started mailing out about a quarter of the ballot packets on April 22, 9 days after the overseas voting period has already started.
When Filipino American community leader Eric Lachica did not receive his overseas absentee voting ballot one week into the voting period – he was worried.
More so when he found out that he wasn’t the only one.
He said a source told him from the Philippine Commission on Elections or COMELEC that only 50% of postage funding from the agency were remitted to Philippine embassies and consulates in North America — causing the delay.
So to make sure his vote is counted, he had to cast it personally at the Washington DC consulate. There, he found out that officials have started mailing out only about a quarter of the ballot packets last April 22 – around 9 days after the voting period had started.
To address growing concerns from OAV voters, Philippine ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez said that more than half of the 37,000 ballot packets have been mailed out from DC, as of today.
“First of all it’s very unfortunate that we are encountering delays but the main delay really, is the fact that postage, the amount that we need or to fund this postage is delayed coming from the Commission on Elections, nonetheless we are doing everything we can.”
In a statement to ABS-CBN News, COMELEC spokesperson James Jimenez pointed out a 2016 agreement – which directs consulates and embassies to fork out the postage cost for the ballots and department of foreign affairs will reimburse them thereafter.
Jimenez also said that – “Unfortunately, some posts are slow in complying with the documentary requirement – so the release of funds is correspondingly slow.”
With a little more than 2 weeks to go before the May 13 elections – Romualdez is concerned that there may not be enough time to mail out the ballots to the voters.
And for the voters to mail their completed ballots back and still make it to the May 13, 6:00 AM absolute deadline for their votes to be counted.
“As soon as we get the funds for the rest of the others, here especially in Washington DC, we’ve completed only about a little over 50% of the ballots… so we’re hoping this will come in before the weekend or early next week,” Romuladez said. “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.”
In a statement, the DFA said they have authorized the foreign service posts to advance the cost of the remaining postage fees in order bridge the funding gap while awaiting the remittance from COMELEC.
The DFA advised voters to contact the embassy or the consulate where they are registered to pick up your ballots, if possible.
The DFA added that embassies and consulates will open its doors during weekends and holidays for the rest of the voting period to accommodate more voters.