MANILA, Apr 21 (Mabuhay) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said it is mulling the options of either suspending overseas voting or even declaring a failure of elections in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

In a House hearing, Comelec Director Sinoa Bea Wee-Lozada said the registered overseas voters in these two countries would not be able to cast their votes due to the ongoing mandatory repatriation there.

“There are two other countries that we likewise have pending reports from the DFA that we need also to declare possible suspension or even failure of elections in those two countries, specifically Afghanistan due to the mandatory repatriation,” Wee-Lozada said.

According to Comelec data, there are 1,697,090 registered Filipino voters overseas, including 27 in Afghanistan and 15 in Ukraine.

Comelec temporarily suspended overseas voting in Shanghai, China, after the imposition of a lockdown due to the increase in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases.

She added that overseas voting is likewise suspended in countries with security concerns such as Algeria, Chad, Tunisia, Libya, and Iraq.

Wee-Lozada said a total number of 1,972 registered voters were affected by the suspension of the holding of election or failure of election.

The overseas voting started on April 10 and will run until the election day on May 9 in the Philippines. They will be voting for national candidates only or those running for the positions of president, vice-president, senator, and party-list groups.

Meanwhile, Comelec Executive Director Bartolome Sinocruz Jr. gave an update on the general preparations of the poll body, such as on the automated election system (AES) procurement, trainings especially on the use of digital signature, deployment of vote counting machines and official ballots and printing of the official ballots, among others.

For his part, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Overseas Voting Secretariat (OVS) Director Zoilo Velasco said out of 91 foreign service posts, 90 posts are already undertaking their voting.

Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Joseph Del Mar Yap said so far after 11 days of voting, the voter turnout has been very high.

He said there are more than 84,000 registered voters in Singapore.

He also addressed and clarified the issue circulating on social media regarding the allegation the embassy was issuing so-called “pre-shaded ballots” to its voters.

Dubai Consul General Renato Duenas also clarified there was no incident report on pre-shaded ballots either from the watcher or voter and that all ballots in Dubai were accounted for.

Earlier, Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said extending the voting period for Filipinos overseas is not possible since the law allows it to be held only until the actual election day in the Philippines.

“The extension is not happening because we only have until May 9, Philippine time. We cannot extend beyond May. That would be a violation of the Constitution,” he said.

The idea of extending the polls came after reports that there were delays at the start of the voting period on April 10.

“The delayed arrival of ballots has already been resolved. Just a one-day delay,” Casquejo said. (MNS)

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