Harassment, Delisted Voters and Glitches Mar First Hours of Absentee Voting in HK

Joint Press Release
10 April 2010

Within the first few hours after the polls opened, harassment and intimidation as well as major glitches that may seriously hamper the implementation of the automated OAV in Hong Kong and disenfranchise OFWs, including de-listing, occurred.

Gabriela Women’s Party in Hong Kong chairperson Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, said that contrary to the COMELEC’s confidence of the OAV in HK running smoothly, the overall picture of its conduct says otherwise. “The OAV does not merely depend on the PCOS functioning properly but also in other aspects of voting, poll watching and the exercise of the rights of participating groups without intimidation or fear of reprisal,” she remarked.

In particular, Abdon-Tellez scored Vice Consul Joy Banagodos, a member of the OAV Secretariat for harassing Gabriela members and supporters for leafleting and hanging banners outside the election venue.

The harassment was experienced by Norman Uy Carnay of BAYAN-HK whom VC Banagodos questioned about the legitimacy of their campaigning outside.

“Since 2004, this issue has already been decided on by the COMELEC and it has always been clear that since the outside of the Bayanihan Kennedy Town Centre is no longer the jurisdiction of the Philippines, leafleting and banners cannot be prohibited. Such was also affirmed by Consul General Claro Cristobal in a meeting about poll watching just last Tuesday, April 6. Even after asserting this, VC Banagodos went as far as ridiculously measuring distances of banners and campaigners from the Bayanihan’s gates,” Carnay narrated.

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Additionally, Carnay also stated that VC Banagodos called up the HK Police and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department of the HK government just to substantiate her claims that Gabriela was violating a law thus prompting the HK Police to make a presence inside the Bayanihan that is the Philippine government’s territory during the OAV. Finally, she even verbally threatened Gabriela poll watcher’s head that Consulate staff have already been informed to take down the banners though this, for unknown reasons, did not take place.

“While the PCOS machines are not even heating up, the hot eyes of the government through VC Banagodos are already aimed towards progressive groups. We know how anti-progressive forces, including the armed machinery of the government, have tried all tactics to subdue militant groups and we can’t help but think that this harassment is their version of such tactics overseas,” Carnay said.

Meanwhile, with the start of the voting, more names were discovered to have been deleted or were not at all included in the Certified List of Overseas Absentee Voters or CLOAV.

Abdon-Tellez said that as of last week, they ahve gathered more than 140 names of OFWs have been excluded or delisted from the list without any considerable reasons. There were also voters today who went to Bayanihan fully expecting to be able to vote as they have also voted in 2004 or 2007 but were turned back because they were not in the CLOAV. “De-listing or exclusion were done without notice making OFWs feel frustrated of the OAV,” she shared.

Also, the group blamed the COMELEC for the delay in voting some OFWs experienced because it took time to get their names, sequence and precinct numbers in the CLOAV. She said that COMELEC’s last-minute reconfiguration of the CLOAV is forcing those who have already known their sequence and precinct numbers to again look for these details before voting.

“Delays in looking for names in the CLOAV that could have been made simpler if OFWs are allowed to do it earlier, can easily become a source of jam in the traffic of people in Bayanihan. This, in turn, can greatly reduce the potential turnout in HK,” she stated.

As for the accreditation of watchers, the group raised concerns on the outcome of the new system that was put in place wherein a watcher had to report first to the OAV Secretariat before going to their assigned clustered precincts.

“Because shifting of watchers occur roughly at the same time, the longer time to complete the additional accreditation measures result to a vacuum in the clustered precincts that basically defeats the purpose of poll watching which is to observe the whole conduct of the elections. We urge the OAV secretariat and the Philippine Consulate General to consider a serious review of this new system they created,” she said.

Finally, Abdon-Tellez vowed that they will continue to watch closely the conduct of the automated OAV in Hong Kong and report immediately to groups such as KONTRA-DAYA in the Philippines any anomalies or glitches in its implementation that may cause the disenfranchisement of many OFWs and the far more serious failure of elections scenarios.

She called for the COMELEC to act on these matters especially because bigger number of voters are expected to turn up tomorrow and every Sunday until May 10.

“Until the last vote is counted and the winners are declared, the COMELEC must not get too excited and celebrate prematurely. There are still 29 days ahead for the OAV and their overconfidence can make them even more laid back than before in really making sure that voting goes smoothly. OFWs are vigilant and we expect no less from the COMELEC,” she concluded.

Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, GWP-HK Chairperson
Norman Uy Carnay, BAYAN-HK Information Officer

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