By Joey Aguilar/Staff Reporter
The Philippine embassy held a mock election at the chancery on Wednesday to prepare for the month-long and first automated polls for Filipino expatriates in Qatar starting on April 9.
Embassy officials who served as Special Board of Election Inspectors welcomed voters to four polling stations at 2pm and briefed them on the mechanics of automated voting.
Speaking to reporters, Philippine ambassador Wilfredo Santos said the absentee voting will run until May 9, the day of elections in the Philippines, and four Precinct Count Optical Scan machines will be used in Doha.
Filipino expatriates can cast their votes from 8am to 5pm during weekdays at the embassy and from 9am to 6pm during weekends, except this Saturday (April 9).
Voters are advised to bring their passports or Qatar ID for identification. The embassy is planning to recognise the first and last voters, as well as the eldest and youngest voters.
“Every vote counts, it is part of your civic duties as a citizen and it is time for you to make your presence felt in the elections,” said Santos, as he urged 40,000 eligible voters, out of the 200,000 Filipino expatriates in Qatar to exercise their right of suffrage.
Citing a low voters’ turnout in the past elections, the envoy said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) wants embassies and consulates around the world to have an 80% turnout for this election.
Philippine ambassador Wilfredo Santos leads the automated mock polls at the embassy. He was assisted by consul Gonaranao Musor (left) and culture attache John Danilo Jiao Jr.
He expressed confidence that Filipino expatriates will heed the call for them to vote as he reiterated the importance of the upcoming presidential elections to the future of the Philippines.
Santos also reminded voters to read instructions carefully, shade circles on the ballots properly, and votes must not be more than the number of candidates for each position. Otherwise, the machine will invalidate the ballot.
He said using automated machines will now allow them to count and transmit election results back home faster.
“Unlike before, when we had to bring home ballots to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and used to take so much time and then to have it counted,” the envoy noted.
In the 2013 senatorial elections, some 2,374 of the 23,260 registered Filipino voters in Qatar went to the polling precincts.
Santos said around 17,500 new registrants had been added to the list of Filipino voters in the country.
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