It was last Thursday when my father and I went to the Philippine embassy in Riyadh to have our thumbs inked, and of course to have a say on who’s going to be the next president, vice-president, and senators of our beloved Philippines. It was an easy thing to do. We registered last July (remember how ecstatic I was when I finally managed to drag my father to register and now, to vote!). For his entire career as an OFW (that’s 18 years and counting!), he didn’t really participate in any of the elections. Elections come and go like countless days and nights in the desert and he couldn’t care less about what’s happening in the Philippine government as long as he’s providing for his family. That’s actually understandable. I’m sure most of the pillars of our homes think that way. So, imagine my surprise when he listened to my plea to vote. Kasi naman, we at home gets an earful of his (and sometimes, my brothers’) rants about the government of GMA and how she runs the country. I told them to magreklamo kayo sa mga balota n’yo! And so all roads lead to the Philippine embassy in Riyadh…
The Overseas Absentee Voting started last April 10, 2010 and is on going for a month. Polls will close on 1:00pm (Riyadh time), May 10, 2010. I didn’t want to get caught in the lines of people on May 10 or anywhere near the date so we went “early.” Maybe a bit late in some other people’s standard but there were less than 10 people voting when we went there, hehe. Mary and her family went a day after.
The process is a breeze. For Filipinos in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, here are the very simple steps. After you enter the gates of the embassy, go to the Liwasang Bonifacio where these boards are:
You have to find your name there to find your precinct. Hep, don’t wail now. Even if it looks like a sea of names (it is), it’s very easy to find your names. If you know your surname (of course you do!), go to the board that contains your surname’s first few letters. Make sure your name is there and take note of the precinct number. Our surname starts with a Va so it’s situated somewhere between surnames starting with Ta and Vi. We’re in Precinct #13. Wee, lucky 13! There are 14 precincts in Riyadh. Once you find your name and know your precinct number, go to the basement parking of the embassy. There are many signs like this:
Find your precinct number. The precincts are merely tables but their numbers are largely written. It’s not a very wide, open space for you to not find your way immediately, unless there’s a huge crowd when you go. If you’re lost, ask! Once you find your table, give the officers your valid ID (iqama, passport, company ID, etc.) and they’ll look for your name in their record. They’ll give you a ballot and will ask you to sign. After that, you go in the table behind the officers and write your candidates! Yes, I said WRITE. The process here is still manual. No automated ballots and PCOS machines here.
It’s wise to bring your kodigo so you don’t waste time and forget anyone on your list. But if you’re not as prepared, there’s a list of candidates available at the table. Write the names as they appear on the list or your vote might become invalid. Pick 1 candidate for president, 1 for vice-president, 12 names for senators and 1 for party list. I’m sure you know this by now but I’m just saying. (Click the links to see the list of certified candidates for national elections.) You don’t need to complete all. Just whoever you like to vote for, really. To tell you honestly, I got stumped in the party list. Imagine 3 pages of parties to choose from… I don’t even know that such parties exist. Maybe I’m just ignorant but if you’re voting for a party list, make sure you have one ready. Going over each one in the list is time-consuming. But if you want to take your time, no one’s preventing you either. Voting for local positions is not available for OAV.
Let’s not discuss who I voted for and why. I’m sure you have your choices too. After you vote, fold your ballot and give it to the officer-in-charge of your precinct. He/she will then ask you to put a thumbmark on your ballot and beside your name and photo on their record. You will put your ballot on the ballot box. The ballot box here is literally a box. Like the balikbayan box, only smaller. Lol. Where are the metal ones with a lock? Is this true to the elections protocol? I feel weirded out by this. Also, they didn’t put any indelible marks in our thumbs after we voted. Seriously, is this the protocol for the OAV? I wouldn’t know for sure because the officers merely said that the box was the one provided by the Comelec. Hmn…
Ooookay. Whatever happens, I am making darn sure that my vote gets counted correctly. My eyes are on you people!!!
So you guys, OFWs and expats alike, go now and vote! Here’s the voting schedule in Riyadh and Al-Khobar. Don’t waste this opportunity to exercise your right.
PS. I visited the Comelec website to check their online precinct finder. I did find my precinct… precincts! I found my precinct in the Philippines (I’m registered in La Union) and in Riyadh, KSA. Does this mean I have two active records or was my Philippine record inactive now that I have already voted in Saudi Arabia? I inquired via email but no response until now. Can someone please enlighten me? I do not want to be tagged as a flying voter (anlayo ng nilipad ko in fairness) nor do I want my Philippine record to be used for cheating! 🙂