x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Phillipine poll vote machines get all clear for UAE run

Filipino expatriates and government officials gathered at the Philippine Embassy yesterday for the final testing of the optical-scan voting machines ahead of the start of polling on Saturday.

Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE, checks a sample ballot at the Philippine Embassy yesterday. Ravindranath K / The National
Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE, checks a sample ballot at the Philippine Embassy yesterday. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Filipino expatriates and government officials gathered at the Philippine Embassy yesterday for the final testing of the optical-scan voting machines ahead of the start of polling on Saturday.

"The process was very simple and systematic," said Oscar Mendoza, 43, a procurement engineer, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for five years. "It took me less than five minutes. I'm happy that we're given the chance to do this."

He was among the volunteers who filled out sample ballots provided by the Commission on Elections at the embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Under the new system, voters darken an oval opposite the name of their preferred candidate and party instead of writing out the details. The ballot is fed into a machine and, after the polls close, it counts the votes. At the end of the voting period on May 13 the votes cast in Abu Dhabi and Dubai will be consolidated.

Manny Nicodemus, 37, an electrical engineer in Abu Dhabi for eight years, filmed the process of voting and later tried it.

"The demonstration could have been more organised," he said. "But generally, everything went well."

Both volunteers are members of the Jesus is Lord church who are supporting their founder, Eduardo Villanueva, who is running for senator in this year's mid-term elections.

Filipino diplomats hope for a better voter turnout this year than in the past. In the 2010 presidential elections only 7,917 of the 47,720 Filipino overseas voters in the UAE voted.

"We will do our best to get as many voters this time," said Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE. "I hope they use their sacred duty to vote responsibly for righteous leaders."

Frank Cimafranca, the consul-general in Dubai, said the consulate will be reaching out more to voters this time.

"We are banking on the fact that this is the first automated elections in the UAE," he said. "We hope this will generate a lot of interest."

Filcom, which represents community groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, will help disseminate the information and appeal to Filipinos to vote.

"Ideally, we're hoping to have 2,000 voters a day," said vice-consul Geronimo Suliguin.

The embassy will have three polling areas and the consulate six. Each will be manned by a special board of election inspectors.

There are 29,943 registered voters in Abu Dhabi and 68,263 in Dubai and the Northern Emirates who are eligible to vote at either the embassy or consulate from Saturday until May 13, the day of the election in the Philippines. They will vote for 12 senators and one party-list group.

rruiz@thenational.ae