By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Filipinos spent three to five hours just to cast their votes in the 2022 national elections held for registered overseas voters in Dubai.
On the first day of overseas voting (OAV), the Philippine embassy allocated a part of the consulate in Dubai as one of the two polling places in UAE (the other is in Abu Dhabi). But the polling place proved too small, forcing the voters to spend a long time in line outside, under the fierce glare of desert sun in Dubai.
At the end of the first day of month-long voting in Dubai, the total votes cast were 1,391. Total registered overseas voters from Dubai number 191,779, the highest among all locations for overseas voting. The third highest among all locations is in Abu Dhabi, also in the UAE, and they number 98,886.
Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelin M. Quintana said the first day of the voting in the region has been peaceful. As of 6 p.m., the polling places recorded more than 2,000 votes already. But these came at the cost of extreme patience of Filipino voters.
Bryan Cabugsa, volunteer poll watcher for Bayan Muna partylist in UAE, said the voting proceeded in a very snail pace. He said the Philippine election authorities should have prepared greater space and consideration to the voters given that the two polling places in UAE have the first and third highest registered voters. He said Hong Kong seems to have allotted the same number of precincts compared to those prepared in Abu Dhabi when the latter has far more registered voters.
The volunteer poll watchers of party list groups in the Makabayan bloc in Dubai fear that the problem of long wait and extremely crowded polling place will persist especially during weekends when most voters will likely come out.
They have also reportedly complained many times, along with poll watchers of presidential bet Leni Robredo, the instances where the Special Board of Election Inspectors ignored the presence of Marcos-Duterte supporters campaigning for their bets in the polling place itself.