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My vote did not count

HONG KONG (Mabuhay) : “I took the advice of the circular from the consulate to check my overseas voter registration on August 17, only to receive the devastating news that not only had I been scratched from the list, but my vote in the 2013 election did not count,” a dismayed Beth Sabado told Mabuhay.

She explained, “Despite the fact that I had voted in Hong Kong in 2013 at Bayanihan Centre, my name did not appear on the registry when the consulate attendant did a search.”

Sabado said that she registered at the consulate on 25 October 2012 and when she went to vote in April the following year at the mid-term elections there was no problem. “I even got the indelible ink on my finger,” she laughed.

“But I was told on August 17 that my name was not on the list of registered voters,” she said.

Then came what she described as being the most ridiculous question that she has ever been asked in her whole life—what was the name of the person who processed her registration in 2012.

She explained she understands that is just a ploy public servants use to clear themselves of any blame, as well as a statement that they are not going to do anything else for you and that it is time for you to go away.

“How am I supposed to remember the name of the person who did that three years ago,” she said. “I probably never even found out. So I asked the assistant what her name was and wrote it down in case I get asked that stupid question again if I get scratched from the list on another occasion. She told me her name.”

She was told by Tolentino, “It is not in our jurisdiction, so I can’t do anything about it.”

Sabado commented, “I felt humiliated. Like my vote did not count and I didn’t either.”

She then went to another counter to ask about a voter ID card, but was told that would take years. “How many years?” she asked, only to be told, “I don’t know. Maybe many years.”

The second attendant asked if she had proof that she had registered, but when Sabado showed him the receipt she had received in 2012, it turned out that did not mean anything either, as with it or without it, she was still deactivated and scratched from the voter registrar and not going to be reinstated.

After a search, he told her that there was no record of her registration and he then did another search for her name, presumably on the Commission for Elections (Comelec) website, and found that she had been deactivated, because she had not voted.

“He told me that I had been deactivated,” she said, “and that I could not get un-deactivated, but would have to register again. He also informed me that the last registered vote I made was in the San Francisco precinct of Pagadian City in 2010.”

Sabado was then given a card with two phone numbers for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Manila that she could call to follow up her dilemma, as well as an email address.

A little relieved to find out that at least she had existed in the past, Sabado said sadly, “I now know for sure that my vote in May 2013 was not counted, as there is no record of it. I am sure I fed it into the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machine properly.”

However, she added that she has never trusted the reliability of the computers used in the automated elections and, although she had great confidence in the process that had been put in place in Hong Kong, she now not only doubts the computer system, but also the quality of security and record-keeping arrangements as well.

Her doubt is well placed, as the chairperson of the Comelec at the time, Sixto Brillantes, who was in town on the first two days of the 2013 election to monitor its conduct, admitted the budget was not adequate.

There was not even enough to put locks on the ballot boxes.

Brillantes bluntly stated that the members of the congress are not interested in the Overseas Absentee Voting, because of the low turnout, consequently adequate budgets are not allocated.

“One million overseas votes is only a small portion out of the 52 million votes in The Philippines. You have to be more vocal to get the attention of the politicians,” Brillantes explained.

Sabado said that she hopes her second registration as an overseas voter is more successful than her first, but despite her bad experience, she will vote in the presidential election next year.

“I was inspired in the first place by the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers in Hong Kong in campaigning for people to register to vote. I believe in voting, but I will walk away with far less confidence about my vote next year than I did in 2013,” she lamented.

 

I was inspired in the first place by the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers in Hong Kong in campaigning for people to register to vote. I believe in voting, but I will walk away with far less confidence about
my vote next year...