#TheFilipinoDecides2016: State of Absentee and Postal Voting

An AFP officer casts his vote in a makeshift ballot box.

An AFP officer casts his vote on a makeshift ballot box.

TODAY IS APRIL 8 — exactly 31 days left to Election Day (“E-Day”). However, a fraction of the registered electorate in the Philippines won’t be able to show up on their official precincts but don’t worry, they will cast their special ballots.

As we resume the #TheFilipinoDecides2016 series, we will tackle about absentee voting and postal voting.

The state of absentee voting

Absentee voting is voting of a part of population who will not physically show up due to valid reasoning. However, the Philippines currently allow four sectors or “teams” to partake this special polling.

The four teams on this infographic by the Official Gazette are eligible to cast a special ballot.

The four teams on this infographic by the Official Gazette are eligible to cast a special ballot.

Meet the 4 Teams

The four teams will choose only the elected national positions (i.e. president, vice-president, 12 senators and a party-list). However, the first team will have a compassionate time window from April 9 to May 9. The rest (the local absentee voting) will vote within three days from April 27 to 29.

  1. Team Abroad: This team defines Overseas Filipino Workers (inclusive of contractual workers), whose names are on the official list and compliant to the enforced laws (R.A. 9189 and 10590).
  2. Team Government Employees: Particularly, Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) — composing mostly of public school teachers — are on duty on May 9 to oversee and to assist the electorate in their assigned precincts.
  3. Team Police and Armed Forces: These people are there to defend the country from election-related violence.
  4. Team Media: The people reporting on the updates across different platforms (not political ones but the P.O.R.T.: print, online, radio and TV) on E-Day itself across the 7,500 islands.

However, there is the fifth team that the Turf will tackle that is not eligible for absentee voting. They are the Team Promdi Students.

Team Promdi Students are college students hailing from different provinces that are currently studying in the Metro Manila. They may have the smart voice to be heard on the ballot but it would be difficult to cast their ballots to their registered precincts back home. Especially to the students of higher educational institutions (HEIs) employing an August-June academic calendar, it would be difficult to juggle your studies — especially the hell month (the expanded version of hell week) — and your civic duty. So far, some institutions have not declared Election Day as a school holiday and have not allot two days of rest, given the factor of colossal traffic congestion and spreading checkpoints in a constrained land area of the Metro.

What if you are not belonging to anyone of these teams and you are over 21, finished a college degree. If you’re still not a registered voter, tough luck for not partaking the civic duty; if you are unhappy with the result, you have no right to complain as you’ll carry the shared burden for 3 to 6 years. The Turf will call the people with such aforementioned characteristics and its warning as Team Tamad.

Postal voting explained

An envelope, containing a ballot paper, is addressed to a returning officer before inserting into a post box.

An envelope, containing a ballot paper, is addressed to a returning officer before inserting into a post box.

Postal voting, as the name implies, is receiving of a special ballot through snail mail. In most countries that employ postal voting, they will accept your request as long as the reason is valid. After the casting the ballot, they returned it into an envelope with his or her voter’s identification (a thumb mark and a signature) on a separate piece of paper.

In the Philippines, postal voting is currently applied for Team Abroad in some countries and the mail should return to selected polling places, such as the consulate office. Unfortunately, we don’t have it here at home but the explanations will be discussed a bit later on.

4 potential valid reasons

If it were implemented, here are some valid reasons why most resident citizens could benefit the postal voting system:

  • Vacation — inland or abroad — where the itinerary is inclusive of the whole E-Day,
  • Hospitalization (scheduled operation and recovery) lasting more than 24 hours,
  • Active emergency duties on E-Day other than those from the preceding four teams (particularly those in hospitals, fire departments, airports, etc.), and
  • Hectic work for Team Promdi Students, especially to those whose schools employing the August-June calendar.

Why postal voting isn’t much used in PH?

Now, the explanations There are two reasons why we don’t employ postal voting here:

  • The geographical and logistical constraints. As an archipelago, it’ll take a longer time to deliver the mailed ballots and may arrive beyond E-Day and its corresponding return. Moreover, it will shoulder more costs than the prescribed budget of COMELEC.
  • Ballot abuse. Most voters can abuse the mailed ballots upon its receipt. Aside from over-voting, they can smudge, doodle or shred the ballots as a sign of their defiance and protest.

In the end, voting in this country is not compulsory but we hope that we will have an acceptable or an improved voter turnout come E-Day on May 9th.


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Photos courtesy of: GMA Network, Official Gazette and Daily Express (UK)


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