WASHINGTON, D.C.—Filipino-Americans became worried when they did not receive their overseas absentee voting ballot one week into the voting period.
Fil-Am community leader Eric Lachica was one of them.
He said a source told him from the Philippine Commission on Elections or Comelec that only 50% of postage funding from the agency was remitted to Philippine embassies and consulates in North America, causing the delay.
To make sure his vote is counted, he had to cast it personally at the Philippine Consulate here. There, he found out that officials have started mailing out only about a quarter of the ballot packets last Monday, April 22, nine days after the voting period had started.
To address growing concerns from voters, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said that more than half of the 37,000 ballot packets have been mailed out from D.C.
“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,” Romualdez said.
In a statement to ABS-CBN News, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez pointed out a 2016 agreement directing consulates and embassies to fork out the postage cost for the ballots and the 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 a.m. 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 D.C., 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,” he said.
He added: “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 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 it has authorized the foreign service posts to advance the cost of the remaining postage fees in order to bridge the funding gap while awaiting the remittance from Comelec.
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.
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