L to R: Executive Director Ed Castro of the DFA-OVS, Attache Imelda de Joya, Consul Maria Alnee Gamble, COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautista, and Ambassador Patricia Ann Paez
L to R: Attache De Joya, Amb. Paez, Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, and Consul Gamble
L to R: COMELEC Head of the Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) Atty. Maria Juana Valeza, Amb. Paez, Attache De Joya and Consul Gamble
Practice-run for chairs of the Special Board of Canvassers; from L to R counterclockwise: Amb. Paez, Ambassador to the KIngdom of Netherlands H.E. Jaime Victor B. Ledda, Ambassador to Argentina H.E. Maria Amelita C. Aquino (hidden), Deputy Permanent Representative to Austria H.E. Sulpicio Confiado; COMELEC’s Deputy Executive Director for Administration of OFOV Atty. Helen Aguila-Flores, Ambassador to Hungary H.E. Maria Fe Pangilinan, Ambassador to France H.E. Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro, and Ambassador to Belgium H.E. Victoria Bataclan
Key officials of the Philippine Embassy in Warsaw participated in the “Training on Manual Voting, Counting and Canvassing for the Purposes of the 2016 National Elections” which was held at the First Pacific Leadership Academy from 22 to 25 February 2016 under the sponsorship of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Overseas Voting Secretariat of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Philippine ambassador to Poland Ms. Patricia Ann V. Paez, Consul Maria Alnee Arugay-Gamble, and Attache Ms. Imelda de Joya who have been designated as chairs of of the Special Board of Canvassers (SBOC), the Special Board of Election Inspectors (SBEI), and the Special Ballot Reception and Custody Group (SBRCG), respectively, participated in the training program. In his welcome remarks, Undersecretary and Chairman of the Overseas Voting Secretariat (OVS) Hon. Rafael Seguis said that the successful implementation of overseas voting shows that our democracy has matured and that the overseas Filipino voters will go the extra mile to exercise their right to vote.” He noted that for the first time in the Philippines’ electoral history, over a million Filipinos will be able to participate in the national election to be held overseas and that this will be a “game changer.” He urged Philippine foreign service posts to “ reach beyond their grasp” and collectively aim for an 80% voters’ turnout for this year’s election cycle. Undersecretary Seguis stressed that “we will continue to politically empower overseas Filipinos” and urged the training participants “to promote our battle cry- “Vote in 2016.” In his welcome remarks, COMELEC Chairman Hon. Andres Bautista outlined the COMELEC’s objectives for 2016. These include, among others, to ensure credible elections which should not only be honest but must also be perceived to be honest; and to enhance the voting experience by looking out for the comfort and convenience of the voters since a high voter turn-out strengthens the elections’ crebility. He added: “if we make the voting process more convenient , there will be more voter turn-out (and thus), a greater mandate and stronger democracy for the country. Under the acronym “ICE TEA”, he cited the COMELEC’s general strategy, as follows: “I” for “Inspire the COMELEC workers;” “C” for “Consult our stakeholder;” “E” for “Engage stakeholders and critics;” “T” for “Transparent;” “E” for “Efficient;” and “A” for “Accountable in the way we do things.” Chairman Hon. Bautista said that the COMELEC’s “specific approach” is to “improve upon (its) 2010 and 2013 performances” by waging a voters’ education campaign; ensuring security particularly through the use of digital signatures, data encrytption, and protection of CF cards; ensuring transparency by conducting mock electioons or practice runs and reviewing source cards; and and by increasing the number of machines to prevent long lines which, in turn, prevent some voters from exercising their right of suffrage; among a host of concrete measures. He cited several innovations which the COMELEC has initiated for the 2016 elections which include setting up voting precints in shopping malls to increase accessibility and provide convenience to voters; and the holding of “PiliPinas Debates 2016” to assist voters in making informed choices, encourage candidates to focus on substantive issue and public policy pronouncements, and provide a “mechanism for exacting accountability among elected officials with regard to their campaign promises.” He informed the participants that the first presidential debate this year got 1.3 million tweets. Chairman Bautista also said that election officials will wear uniforms on election day to assist the public in identfying them. The COMELEC will also implement its “Election Day Signage Project” to effectively communicate basic voting steps, do’s and don’ts and other relevent information for the voters. He added that in cooperation with other agencies, Legal Assistance Desks, Voter Help Desks and Medical Assistance will be established in all electoral precints. “The government derives its powers from the consent of the governed” and Comelec will do its part, “ Chairman Bautista stressed. COMELEC Executive Director Atty. Jose Tolentino, Jr. said that “the challenge is to translate the statistics in registration into votes. The Philippine Embassy in Warsaw, which has concurrent jurisdiction over the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, reported that 320 overseas Filipino voters registered for the May 2016 national elections broken down as follows: Poland- 270; Estonia - 26; Lithuania - 17; and Latvia - 17 registered voters. For the 2013 elections, there were 125 overseas Filipino voters registered in Poland. The record-breaking number of overseas Filipino voters in Poland and in the Baltic States who registered for the May 2016 elections was due to the combined efforts of the Embassy’s Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) Registration Team led by Consul Randy Arquiza, with Attaches Ms. Evelyn Vega and Mr. Jose Magaso as members.