The Commission on Elections on Monday advised voters on what to do if they receive ballots that are pre-shaded.
Comelec said those who received such ballots must immediately report it to the authorities so that these could be given attention.
Pre-shaded ballot incidents
The poll body made this advice following reports of some overseas-based voters allegedly receiving pre-shaded ballots, a day after the overseas absentee voting period began on Sunday.
On Monday, a Singapore-based overseas Filipino worker (OFW) claimed that she received a “pre-shaded ballot” which she alleged had the names of vice presidential bet Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and “some” senatorial candidates’ names already marked.
“Nang binalik ko para palitan, ito raw ay spoiled ballot from yesterday. It could be an honest mistake pero hindi dapat ina-allow na mangyari ang mga ganitong pagkakamali. Be vigilant and report to the watchers and marshalls if it also happens to you,” Cheryl Abundo, the voter, wrote on Facebook.
She said that the ballot that was given to her was placed in a secrecy folder, according to her interview with CNN Philippines.
Abundo added that the officers told her it was a “spoiled ballot” from the first day of the overseas absentee voting in the city-state.
She was given another ballot and was able to vote for her preferred bets.
“The girl took the ballot I gave back and nilagay lang sa likod niya, and she handed me a new one,” Abundo said in the interview.
Abundo added that she has formally reported the incident to the Comelec and the Philippine Embassy in Singapore but has not yet received a response.
As of Monday afternoon, the embassy in Singapore acknowledged the incident and said that a “spoiled ballot from yesterday’s exercise was inadvertently and unintentionally given to a voter this morning.”
“This was subsequently recorded in the official OVF No. 11-A (Minutes of Voting for AES Voting Posts). We wish to stress that this was an isolated incident,” it said in a statement.
“The Embassy assures the public that it is totally committed to provide a system of honest and orderly overseas absentee voting that upholds the integrity of the voting process,” it added.
According to the Comelec, spoiled ballots should “be distinctly marked with the word ‘spoiled’ and signed by the board of election inspectors on the endorsement fold thereof and immediately placed in the compartment for spoiled ballots.”
A Facebook conversation also circulated which claimed that an OFW voter in Dubai has received a pre-shaded ballot.
It alleged that the name presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been marked already.
“Kaya kinoll-out niya ‘yung mga taga Comelec, pero we were still waiting sa response kung naaksyunan ba or hindi?” the sender of the message alleged.
Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said that such incidents must be listed in the minutes of voting.
“Kung may objection, dapat nakasulat sa minutes,” he said on Monday, adding that this is the “best evidence of what happened (in) the election.”
The minutes of the voting refer to a signed statement prepared by the board of election inspectors which contains pertinent information about the election that was conducted in the precinct.
This includes the start and end of voting, the number of spoiled and valid ballots, and the nature of protests made by poll watchers, among others.
What to do with pre-shaded ballots
Meanwhile, in response to the alleged pre-shaded ballot incidents, Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said that such occurrences should be immediately brought to the attention of the authorities.
“Kapag binigyan ng balota ng botante, the chairman makes sure that walang laman ito. So kapag dun pa lang, nakita na ng botante, hindi na dapat tatanggapin ng botante ‘yun,” he said.
Garcia said that the Comelec’s Task Force Against Fake News will investigate Abundo and the Dubai OFW’s allegations on pre-shaded ballots.
For overseas voting, there are two modes of voting available—personal and postal.
For personal voting, Filipinos will cast their votes at Philippine embassies, consulates and other designated polling places.
Once they received their ballot, voters must make sure that is “new, not marked, torn or smudged,” according to a Philippine consulate general office.
The voter must similarly “not tear, deface or make unnecessary marks on the ballot” upon receiving it.
If the ballots are already marked, Casquejo said that the voter shouldn’t accept this and report it to the authorities immediately.
Voting in countries and territories outside the Philippines is from April 10 to May 9, 2022.