A SENATOR on Monday called on diplomatic offices to extend the voting hours for overseas Filipinos following complaints as the month-long absentee voting started on April 10.
“Let’s not wait for a last-minute scramble to implement remedies,” Senator Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation said in a statement.
She said the extended hours is particularly important for working Filipinos abroad.
“The immediate solution is to extend voting hours at our embassies and consulates, while the logistical challenges of setting up more voting precincts still have to be sorted out by the Comelec (Commission on Elections),” she added.
Election Commissioner Marlon S. Casquejo said in a briefing on Monday that they have already issued an advisory to foreign offices to accommodate voters who are already at the site but have yet to cast their ballot by the end of office hours.
“There is an advisory we have sent to embassies that if at the end of the voting hours there are still voters in the polling centers, voting will continue,” he said.
However, embassies and consular offices still have discretion on whether they can implement extended work hours.
“We also have to balance our host country, because if the host country does not allow such kind of extension, then we really have to abide,” Mr. Casquejo said, adding that they will send another advisory on the matter.
Ms. Marcos said her office has received feedback and complaints on the absentee voting process from Filipinos in Hong Kong, the United States, Italy, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom.
Last week, groups of overseas Filipinos warned of possible voter disenfranchisement due to lack of information dissemination from the foreign offices, delayed receipt of mail-in ballots, and limited voting sites and hours.
There are almost 1.7 million registered overseas Filipino voters. Absentee voting, which will be mainly by post in most countries and in-person in a few areas, will be open until May 9. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan with a report from John Victor D. Ordoñez