x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Low interest and mix-ups hinder Philippines poll

Filipinos in the UAE have until next week to cast their votes in the presidential election, but some appear to have lost interest, while others have found themselves disenfranchised.

Filipinos have until next week to cast their votes in the presidential election, but some appear to have lost interest, while others have found themselves disenfranchised. "Many registered voters here said they don't expect the situation of our country to improve, so why vote at all," said Noel Tolentino, 34, a shopkeeper in Ras al Khaimah. "But I'm now planning to take them along with me when I vote at the consulate this week."

Polls for overseas voters have been open since April 10 and will remain open until May 10, election day in the Philippines. Filipinos will be choosing their country's next president, vice president, 12 senators and one party-list representative. Voters in the Northern Emirates must go to the consulate in Dubai to vote, which many find tiresome and costly, Mr Tolentino said. "Many of my colleagues just don't care about the elections," said Elizabeth Ng, 35, a waitress in Abu Dhabi who cast her ballot at the embassy yesterday. "I could have voted last month but I didn't have my voter's ID with me."

Filipino diplomats in the Emirates have said voters can present any form of identification to vote. "My wife didn't have a voter's ID but we were still allowed to vote," said Eduardo Catama, 51, a nurse in Abu Dhabi who came with his wife, Beverly, 54, to the embassy. By Friday, 1,681 Filipinos had cast their ballots at the embassy in Abu Dhabi, according to officials in Manila. "As in past elections, we see a surge of voters in the last few days of voting," said Adelio Cruz, the consul general at the embassy in Abu Dhabi.

More than 47,000 of the estimated 450,000 Filipinos in this country are eligible to vote in this year's elections. In total, 17,041 voters have registered in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, and 30,624 in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Some Filipinos who previously registered as absentee voters in other countries complained that their names were not on the list. "I travelled all the way from Al Ain with my wife to vote only to be told that my name was not on the list," said Luisito Chugawi, 37, a stock controller in Al Ain.

He first registered as an overseas absentee voter in Saudi Arabia. When he moved to Al Ain in 2005, he signed up at a mobile registration centre. However, when it came to the 2007 elections, his name was not on the list. Sheryl Gerona, 32, a bank employee in Abu Dhabi, said she failed to vote last month because the elections committee rejected her application. "I registered at the Embassy last year," she said. "But no one advised me to request a transfer of my voter registration records to Abu Dhabi."

rruiz@thenational.ae