9 overseas voters face probe over ballot selfies

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to investigate at least 9 overseas voters for taking selfies with their ballots during the month-long overseas absentee voting.

It is an election offense to take a selfie with a ballot on election day. This means anyone found guilty could spend up to 6 years in jail.

Comelec’s director for overseas absentee voting, Jane Valeza, said these 9 overseas voters come from the following posts:

The Comelec refused to name the 9 voters to give way to their investigation.

They are among the record-breaking number of overseas voters this year: around 230,000 Filipinos as of Saturday, April 30, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said.

Referring to these cases of ballot selfies, Lim said on Wednesday, April 27, "We will have these investigated by our law department to determine whether there is probable cause, to determine whether we have jurisdiction, although offhand, I can say to you that our embassies and consulates are extensions of Philippine territory."

Lim, the Comelec commissioner in charge of overseas absentee voting, explained that taking ballot selfies is banned because these photos can be used in vote buying.

Use of cellphones banned

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista earlier said the poll body has banned even the use of cellphones in polling precincts.

Lim said: "Bakit bawal? Dahil makikita kung kanino ka bumoto. E bakit mo ipapakita kung kanino ka bumoto? May usapan ka ba diyan sa labas na iboto mo dapat si Juan o si Pedro o si Mario?" 

(Why is it prohibited? Because people will see whom you voted for. Why will you show them whom you voted for? Do you have an agreement outside that you should vote for Juan or Pedro or Mario?) 

"Choose your leaders; vote wisely. But take the elections seriously," he said.

Unfortunately, Lim said, the Comelec has recorded more incidents of ballot selfies than reported discrepancies between ballots and voting receipts.

Lim said the Comelec has recorded only two complaints over voting receipts as of Wednesday.

The Comelec prescribes a proper way of filing these complaints, which is to have these noted by election inspectors in their minutes.

The poll body, however, prohibits the filing of "frivolous objections" over voting receipts. 

Like taking ballot selfies, filing frivolous complaints is also an election offense. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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