2019 midterm elections turnout the highest so far

Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) spokesperson Arthur Garcia
PCG San Francisco Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr. (second from right) talks with protesters (l-r) National Alliance for Filipino Concern’s Terry Valens, anti-Marcos activist Bernadette Herrera and Alex Magsano.
Cause-oriented groups allied with Malaya Movement and FAHRA staged a rally in front of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco to protest the conduct and results of the just-concluded midterm elections.

The Department of Foreign Affairs-Overseas Voting Secretariat (DFA-OVS) announced that this year’s midterm elections had the highest ever turnout of 334,928 which was almost triple the turnout of 2013 midterm elections overseas voters which was at 118,823.

The 2019 voter turnout was a big increase of 216,105 (about 182%) voters over the 2013 figures. It is also the second biggest overseas election turnout after the 2016 presidential elections’ figure of 432,706 voter turnout.

The ten diplomatic posts with the biggest turnout of voters per Embassy (PE)/ Philippine Consulate General (PCG) are: Hong Kong PCG (36,009); Dubai PCG (28,487); Singapore PE (25,110); Abu Dhabi PE (15,806); Kuwait PE (15,558); Riyadh PE (14,616); Jeddah PCG (11,484); Tokyo PE (10,744); San Francisco PCG (9,630); and New York PCG (9,045).

Middle East and Africa took the lead in the regional breakdown at 121,240 followed by Asia Pacific at 113,139, the Americas at 54,834, and Europe at 45,715.

The number of registered overseas voters for the 2019 elections also increased to 1,822,173 from the 2016 presidential elections figure of 1,376,067 registered overseas voters.

While the conduct of the 2019 National and Local Elections had problems with the malfunctions of both the vote counting machines (VCMs) and secure digital (SD) cards, overseas voting also encountered the same problems aside from the challenge in mailing of ballots to and reaching registered voters on time.

Despite these problems in the conduct and management of overseas voting, however, the DFA-OVS reported that “the men and women of the Philippine Foreign Service have successfully ushered a voter turnout of 334,928…. (and that) the 2019 elections reached a new milestone for overseas voting.” since the Overseas Voting Act was signed into law in 2003.

Riding on these positive developments, the DFA-OVS hopes to sustain “the momentum coming from the 2016 Presidential election cycle and will hopefully continue to set new milestones for the 2022 elections.”

In the last briefing with the press, PCG San Francisco Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr. stated that they had a 9,630 or a 16% voter turnout within their jurisdiction and that they spent around $78,000 for overseas voting process.

Bensurto summarized that there were a total number of 59,513 registered overseas voters spread over 60 precincts ballots which were fed to same number of 60 sd cards, two of which malfunctioned and were promptly replaced by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in Manila.

“We should continue working together to make sure that we inform and push people to come out and exercise their right to vote,” Bensurto assured. “It has been confirmed that there will be discussions and analyses something like a post mortem analysis on what went well and what went wrong on the previous electoral exercise with tend in view of improving the system. We have to be humble enough to recognize the fact that there is always room for improvement.”

Bensurto also took time to have a conversation with Filipino group leaders who earlier that day staged a protest in front of the Consulate citing that these conversations as “fruitful in terms of getting ideas from both sides (and as an) opportunity to explain ourselves and get their sides too.”

San Francisco Bay Area cause-oriented groups mostly from the Malaya Movement and Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) held a rally in front of the Consulate to express their objection to the alleged lapses in the conduct of the midterms elections and its subsequent results that showed a 12-0 victory for the pro- President Duterte administration candidates.

In an interview after the rally, Marcos years activist Bernadette Herrera stressed for the need to have Filipino everywhere to be united so that even if the winning candidates were proclaimed, their ranks are strengthened for the days ahead.

“We need to strengthen our ranks against their wishes for a lifting of term limits showing their greed for power and worst, their willingness to sell out the Philippines,” Herrera feared. “Our group’s chapters are being strengthened in the four corners of the United States in terms of continued education and organization in preparation for the next State of the Nation Address in order to present and deliver the real state of the nation address.”

Nurj Kaalim of Migrante Northern California emphasized on the importance to have checks and balances in the government that she claimed the Duterte government is averting from happening at all cost

“What we have now are basically pro-Duterte senators who would support all his ridiculous policies like lowering the criminal liability to age nine, support the drug war that already killed 30,000 people and support the ongoing Martial Law in Mindanao, among others. Those who are on the other side would no longer have a voice,” Kaalim maintains.

Kaila Williams, League of Filipino Students San Francisco State University secretary-general regarded the result of the elections as “very outrageous.”

“But it was not so surprising as well to see this happening because we have seen this in other presidencies and we can look back at the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos,” Williams reminded. “What is very uplifting is that we see that a lot of university students really revving up in this elections because they know that this is the way to repress the Filipino people even more and also to target activists including the youth.”

Protester Alex Magsano rued that there were lots of reports on disenfranchisement and intimidation in the conduct of the midterm elections.

“The Duterte government has gone into a rampage of intimidation voters and even among media people. All of these things point to suppression of the political will of the people so we are really adamant in questioning the integrity and validity of these elections because of all those things,” Magsano insists

FAHRA, on the other hand, does not concede to the results of Philippine senatorial elections marred by electronic cheating and blatant act to disenfranchise many voters.

“COMELEC’s seven-hour delay in transmitting electoral returns to the transparency server, massive vote buying, delay of mailing ballots to overseas Filipinos, and other undemocratic practices put the COMELEC in a position not worthy of the public trust to conduct and oversee a fair and honest elections,” FAHRA Los Angeles’ leader Art Garcia insists. “Investigate the anomalies of COMELEC. Pursue electoral reforms.”