Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner-in-charge for overseas voting and voter’s education Rowena Guanzon formally opened the overseas voting worldwide at the Philippine Center in San Francisco and signaled start of the participation in the 2019 election of Filipinos abroad.
On hand to welcome Guanzon were the San Francisco consulate officials and staff led by Deputy Consul-General Raquel Solano, who is in charge of consulate’s overseas voting together with Consul Dominic Xavier Imperial.
Solano remarked that the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the 59,315 registered voters (including seafarers) in their ten-state consular jurisdiction received their ballots on time and cast their votes within the one-month voting period from April 13 to May 13, 2019.
“We need to ensure that their votes are counted, canvassed, and transmitted in accordance with established laws, rules and regulations. We are mandated to help bring about free, honest, orderly an peaceful elections,” Solano acknowledged. “We recognize the need to work doubly hard to ensure a higher voter turnout and as much as possible to exceed the 2016 voter turnout. In this regard, we use the social media in drumming up interest in voting and encouraging voters to go out and vote.”
A big majority of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco voters will get their ballots by mail and had their ballots received back by the consulate by 6:00 p.m. of May 13, 2019 Philippine time. .
In her speech, Guanzon explained that they decided to launch this year’s midterm absentee voting worldwide in San Francisco “not only because of its large number of voters but also because of the performance of this post in terms of (having) trained (personnel) and (their) capacity to manage elections.”
The consulate had a relatively high 33.27% or a 15,424 out of the total 46,355 registered voter turnout in 2016.
Guanzon cited that the number of overseas voters increased to 1,822,173 total number of overseas voters for the 2019 elections a marked increase from the 1,376,067 in 2016 when about 31.5 % turnout was reported and announced that the COMELEC institutionalized overseas voting to make the Philippines a leading country in Asia in terms of best practices in managing elections worldwide.
“The overseas vote is very important. It can elect the twelfth winning senator. Every Filipino vote abroad is like times five because they are likely to influence their relatives at home to whom they send money. It is important that they choose their senators based on reason and not because they are popular,” Guanzon pointed out. “The senate is a very important institution in balancing of power in a democracy and should, therefore, be composed of senators who have this sense of democratic independence and competence,” stressed Guanzon.
Guanzon also mentioned the importance of social media in reaching the voters in giving them access not only about elections but also to information about the candidates because about 70% of our voters are less than 40 years old of whom 80% use means of social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like
“We in the COMELEC fight fake news because it erodes our democratic principles. People cannot make an informed choice if they bombarded with fake news every day. Together with media, let us make sure that news is accurate and has a reasonable basis. We should all fight fake news,” urged Guanzon.
The consulate is open on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. for those who opted to vote in person and to receive accomplished ballots. On weekends, the Consulate is open from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. to receive filled ballots only.
It will have a batch feeding of ballots on Mondays and Thursdays within the voting period and canvassing will take place after voting hours at the 5th floor of the Philippine Center Building which is open to the public.
The Consulate General in San Francisco covers Northern California, Northern Nevada, Washington State, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Alaska..
On the whole, the total number of registered overseas voters in the U.S for the midterm elections is 241,851 an increase from the 191,261 voters in 2016 of whom 53,158 (or 27.79%) casted their votes.
The Philippine Consulate in San Francisco election team
Filipino community leaders and members listens to COMELEC Commissioner-in-charge Rowena Guanzon (extreme right) as she delivers her speech.
Commission on Election commissioner-in-charge of overseas voting and voter’s education Rowena Guanzon
COMELEC Vote Counting Machine