MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino voter registered in Sweden sounded the alarm over possible irregularities after receiving two ballots for the overseas election from the Philippine embassy in Stockholm.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, April 12 (Stockholm time), the voter, who agreed to let Rappler report on his case provided his name be withheld, posted about his experience of receiving two ballots from the embassy with two names. One of his supposed names on the envelopes was misspelled, as shown in photos he posted.
After the voter’s post went viral, the Philippine embassy confirmed on Wednesday afternoon, April 13 (Stockholm time), that at least three voters received two ballots each.
The voter said he received his first ballot on April 11, and accomplished it right away. Just as the voter sealed his envelope and got ready to mail it back to the embassy, he received another one the following day.
“As I went home today from work, I received another mail from the embassy. It contains almost the same elements as what I received yesterday, [but it] just so happened that my name is misspelled and the envelope that came from the Commission of Elections (Comelec) is missing,” he said.
The voter posted a photo of the two packets showing different ballot and envelope numbers.
“Why [did I receive] the same mail twice from the Embassy? This would be susceptible to cheating and over-voting if this would land in the hands of evil people,” he said.
The voter also questioned Comelec’s data handling, and why some elements were present in one packet, and absent in the other.
“Given that I now have two official ballots then, which one is really linked under my name? If I submit one of them now and turns out that the other one is the actual ballot linked to my name, then my vote will not be counted, right?” he added.
In its statement on Wednesday, the embassy said that the ballots were sent out based on the Certified List of Overseas Voters (CLOV) provided by the Comelec.
Rappler cross-checked the voter’s name with the CLOV posted on the Comelec’s website. The misspelled name on one of the voter’s election packets was not on the CLOV. The voter did not have a namesake under the embassy’s jurisdiction either.
Filipinos abroad have begun casting their votes for the month-long overseas voting period from April 10 to May 9.
The voter updated his Facebook post as the Philippine embassy in Stockholm responded to his concern. The embassy advised him of the correct ballot number and ballot envelope number to use, and to return the other election materials to the embassy.
The voter replied by asking if he could go to the embassy personally to ensure that the wrong ballot could be disposed of instead of possibly being sent to another person.
“Please inform me of the next steps I can do regarding this. I want to safeguard my vote this time. I hope also that someone would be accountable for this glitch, since it would be very alarming not just for me but for other Filipino voters if they came across this scenario,” he wrote to the embassy.
The embassy allowed the voter to submit the ballot personally. “We are looking into the matter and will inform Comelec of the glitch,” the embassy said.
Authorities also told the voter they “elevated the concern in Manila.”
The embassy said that it acknowledged “that there may have been an element of human error on its part” while doing post-delivery checks of the ballots before sending them out to the voters. These checks involve ensuring that the ballots are sent to correct addresses.
“The Embassy therefore regrets any inconvenience or confusion it may have inadvertently caused, and thanks those concerned for bringing the matter to its attention,” the embassy said.
The embassy assured the public that there are “adequate safeguards” in place. They insisted that the ballots were counterchecked with the CLOV.
The Comelec earlier said they would wait for a report on the incident. “Maghihintay po tayo ng tamang report, lalo na sa ating embahada o konsulada,” Comelec Commissioner George Garcia told reporters before the embassy released its statement. (We will wait for a report, especially from the embassy or consulate.) – with a report from Dwight de Leon/Rappler.com