MECO tries to assuage postal vote fears as Filipinos go to the polls

MECO tries to assuage postal vote fears as Filipinos go to the polls

Taipei, April 15 (CNA) Amid concerns over new voting arrangements, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) has said that Filipinos in Taiwan can still submit postal ballots in person, as overseas voters go to the polls in the country’s presidential election.

Following the closure of MECO’s Taichung extension office in December 2020, voters outside of Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Keelung, Hsinchu, Kaohsiung and Tainan have been registered as postal voters by default.

It marks the first time that postal ballots have been introduced in Taiwan, with all voters previously required to submit their ballots in person at one of MECO’s offices.

Many voters had registered their displeasure with MECO over the arrangement online, citing reasons ranging from changed addresses to concerns about other people knowing who they voted for.

As a result, MECO is encouraging postal voters who wish to ensure their ballot is received correctly to visit the Taipei or Kaohsiung office in person and insert it into the designated drop box.

MECO said that postal ballots received by the office will be inserted into a vote-counting machine by an official from the Philippines’ Commission on Elections (COMLEC) every Monday and Thursday.

MECO added that it was the position of its current Chairman Wilfredo B. Fernandez that the previous voting arrangements, under which all ballots were submitted in person, should not have been altered.

The Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei. CNA photo April 15
A total of 72,779 Filipinos in Taiwan registered as overseas voters for this year’s presidential election, an increase of 31,319, or more than 75 percent, compared to just 41,460 for the Philippine midterm elections in 2019, according to data released by COMELEC.

Among those voting for the first time in Taiwan is Ph.D. student Jhon Kevin Mirafuentes, also known as Teacher Athena within the Filipino community.

“My vote is precious. Our country needs a strong-minded leader with that charismatic heart to be the ‘chief executive,'” Mirafuentes told CNA in a recent interview.

She said that her friends already voted, some traveling to MECO voting centers in Taipei and Kaohsiung to do so, while others voted by post.

Katherine Wu Corrales, a Filipino-Taiwanese who is also casting her first presidential ballot while in Taiwan, submitted her vote at MECO in Taipei Sunday, the first day of overseas voting.

“It is my duty to exercise my right as a Filipino citizen,” she told CNA.

Jayrose B. Ho, a dual Filipino-Taiwanese citizen, who has voted for the Philippine elections while in Taiwan many times before, told CNA she would likely go to vote at the end of the month to avoid large crowds.

The window for absentee ballots to be submitted will run until May 9, the day of the 2022 Philippine presidential election.

The Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei. CNA photo April 15
In an interview with CNA, MECO Head Executive Assistant Maria Bettina Fernandez said that the hike in the number of registered voters in 2022 compared to 2019 was likely because it was a presidential election.

“Filipinos are usually more motivated when the presidential and vice-presidential posts are up for grabs,” Fernandez said.

(By William Yen)

Enditem/ASG

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