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Volunteers halt campaign near UAE Philippine consulate

"It's a blatant violation since they're campaigning during the election period," says the country co-ordinator for a migrant-rights group.

ABU DHABI // Volunteers of a party list group will no longer be campaigning near the Philippine consulate’s gate after a migrant rights group questioned their actions at the weekend.

The first day of overseas absentee voting in Dubai on Saturday went well, but Kalinga UAE volunteers were seen distributing flyers too close to the gate, said Nhel Morona, the country coordinator for Migrante Middle East.

Mr Morona said a female volunteer for Cibac, another party, was handing out promotional material outside the main door of the consulate near the polling place. The other volunteers were campaigning outside the gate.

“It’s a blatant violation since they’re campaigning during the election period,” he said. “It’s unfair to the other party list groups since many people do not know the names of these groups and are still undecided who to vote for.”

Frank Cimafranca, the consul general in Dubai , confirmed that campaigning was not allowed inside the consulate premises and within the polling place.

“But if they campaign outside the consulate, then there’s no problem about it provided they do it in an orderly manner and they don’t disrupt the work of the consulate,” Mr Cimafranca said.

Greg Mota, the UAE co-ordinator for Kalinga, said he had advised volunteers to stay at least 100 metres away from the consulate while handing out sample ballots.

“Our volunteers will now refrain from doing things prejudicial to Kalinga, which is eyeing a second term,” Mr Mota said.

The volunteers had “no malicious intent or wilful intention to violate any law”, he said.

“Our volunteers are not politically orientated and were just overzealous in carrying out their work.

“Ignorance does not exempt one from the law but it likewise protects the rights of the innocent.”

He said the volunteers were clearly identified as members of the Kalinga party by their clothing.

Carol Alacre, 41, a volunteer, said the group was not aware it had breached any rule.

“We were distributing flyers outside the consulate,” Ms Alacre said. “We were not inside the consulate or the precinct.”

Ines Suba, the UAE coordinator for Cibac, said it was impossible that any of the party’s volunteers could have distributed flyers inside the consulate. “We know it’s not allowed,” Ms Suba said. “Since 2010, we’ve been distributing flyers outside the consulate.”

Mr Cimafranca said: “Voters have all the right to support any candidate or political party of their choice and be involved in political activities, provided they are not public servants or in the government service.”

Expatriate voting is taking place at the embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai until May 13 – election day in the Philippines.

rruiz@thenational.ae

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