Philippines: 140,000 OAV ballots diverted to private couriers; election watchdog alarmed

May. 10, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — An electoral watchdog focusing on the overseas absentee voting polls today expressed fears over the strong possibility that the OAV ballots sent by mail will be used for massive cheating by the Arroyo administration.

The OAV by mail is extremely prone to tampering. The fact that there are also thousands of Return to Sender (RTS) ballots that will diverted and re-sent through private couriers heightens this likelihood, says Maita Santiago, Migrants Watch Network Against Electoral Fraud and Violence (MigrantsWatch.Net) Spokesperson.

There are two envelopes in the OAV by mail process, an inner and outer envelope. To cheat, one only has to open the outer envelope and switch the inner envelope containing just the actual ballot and leave behind the detached portion of the ballot with the thumb mark and the signature, said Santiago.

RTS ballots are ones that were not received by the OFW voters. There are approximately 504,000 OAV voters. According to the anti-fraud group Kontra Daya, about 174,000 ballots were mailed to OAV voters. But of the total mailed ballots, about 80% were marked return to sender, amounting to almost 140,000 ballots.

An urgent letter by the Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting Chair Florentino Tuason to the Philippine Postal Corporations Regional Director Muara Baghari-Regis says that RTS ballots will be sent back to the COAV in Manila and re-sent using private couriers.

A copy of the letter, dated April 23, was obtained by the government employees group COURAGE and its anti-fraud arm Kawani Kontra Daya. A copy is posted on the website of Kontra Daya at

Voting by mail was expanded from three countries in 2004 to more than 60 countries this year.

The Arroyo regime has a grand scheme for electoral fraud and violence. Along with the political killing, repression and harassment of opposition groups, progressive partylists and the people it includes the outright manipulation of election results. Thus, the tampering of OAV ballots is extremely plausible, said Santiago.

The MigrantsWatch.Net has coordinators in various countries including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Japan and Italy.

We remain vigilant against all attempts to manipulate the will of the people through the rigging of the polls, especially overseas. We remind Arroyo that history is on the side of the people when it comes to exposing and ultimately overthrowing fraudulent and fascist regimes, concluded Santiago. #

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