PH Clarifies OAV’s Concerns On Identity Theft

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – Overseas Absentee Voters (OAV’s), who are hesitant to drop their ballots in the snail mailbox because doing so could risk exposure of their signatures to identity thieves, should still go ahead in dropping their ballots in the mail without anything to worry about.

Midwest Philippine Consul General Leo M. Herrera-Lim, also a Philippine lawyer, said any OAV, who does not want to take chances that he could expose his signature to identify thieves, may enclose the envelope containing his ballot inside another envelop and his ballot will still be considered valid.

This was Herrera-Lim’s clarification during Kapihan held Thursday (April 25) at the Philippine Consulate General’s office in Chicago, Illinois in the presence of Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia, who led a powerhouse delegation that is luring more American and Filipino American investors to seriously consider putting their money in the Philippines.

In his Feedback column last April 19 in the Chicago-based Philippine Weekly, publisher-editor Orly Bernardino said the “instructions for voting by mail are not, however, very precise when it comes to what a voter should do even if these are detailed in English, and translated into Tagalog or Pilipino.”

He cited instruction No. 6, which says, “Write your name and affix your signature in the proper space provided in the ‘Ballot Envelope'”.

The space indicated is on the left upper portion of the mailing envelope, where the name of the sender and address are usually located. In this case, it’s not only the name but also the signature on top of the printed name.

INVITATION TO STOLEN IDENTITY

“This is perhaps the most objectionable portion of the instructions, a clear deterrent to any participation in the voting process. I wouldn’t risk both my name and signature openly going through the mails. That is a clear invitation to stolen identity. My printed name YES but NOT my signature.”

So, Bernardino decided to put the official ballot inside a bigger envelope “so I won’t be exposing my full name and signature” even at the risk of being invalidated.

During the Kapihan, Herrera-Lim confirmed the Consulate received Bernardino’s “bigger envelope” and it is considered valid. Others, who might have read Bernardino’s column, likewise placed the official ballot envelopes in “bigger envelopes” and these will also be considered valid.

One obvious reason to put the official ballot envelope inside a bigger envelop in the case of those addressed to the Philippine Consulate in Chicago that was printed by the Commission on Elections from the Philippines has now changed to a new address: 122 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 2600, Chicago, IL 60603. So, using the Comelec-prepared envelope would not make sense.

Bernardino added the instruction No. 7, “Seal the “Ballot Envelope” with a paper seal (OFV No. 12)” was unnecessary as he “already used the only seal for my folded ballot.”

Herrera-Lim said so far the Chicago Philippine Consulate has received 490 ballots as of Thursday. There were about 1,500 ballots received by the Consulate during the May 2010 presidential elections

FILAMS URGED TO EXERCISE RIGHT TO VOTE

Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy also called on members of the Filipino-American Community in the United States who are registered as overseas voters to exercise their right to vote in next month’s national elections in the Philippines.

In a statement, Ambassador Cuisia urged the almost 85,000 Filipino and Filipino-American overseas voters across the US to actively participate in the 13 May election for members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“We call on our kababayans here in the United States to make a difference by helping ensure that we only send the best people to represent us in Congress,” Ambassador Cuisia said. “We urge you to exercise your right to choose the kind of people we want to lead us.”

Although the voting period for overseas voters is from 13 April to 13 May, Ambassador Cuisia strongly encouraged voters to mail their ballots as soon as they receive these in the mail.

DEADLINE: 7 A.M. EASTERN STANDARD TIME MAY 13, 2013

“For those who want to personally cast their ballots, we will make available for them a ballot reception box at the Consular Section of the Embassy where they could cast their votes until 7 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) on May 13,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

He added that voters registered with the Embassy as well as those in the Philippine Consulates General in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Honolulu and Guam, will be receiving their voting packets by mail. The packets, he said, contain, among others, the official ballot that voters have to mail to the Foreign Service posts where they are registered.

On Wednesday, the Embassy conducted its first Talakayan sa Embahada forum where Consul Arlene Magno explained the overseas voting process to members of the Filipino Community who were in attendance.

Consul Magno said registered voters who were disenfranchised after failing to vote in the 2007 and 2010 elections will be allowed to vote by personally appearing at the Embassy and other US posts where they are registered until 4 a.m. of 13 May.

Voters, who still have not received their voting packets, are requested to check the certified voters lists posted in the websites of the Embassy and the Consulates General in the US.

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Photocaption:

GET OUT AND VOTE: Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia Jr.  (second from left), appeals to Overseas Absentee Voters to mail in their ballots from now until May 12, 2013 to be counted in the May 13, 2013 mid-term elections in the Philippines during the Kapihan at the Philippine Consulate of the Midwest in Chicago, Illinois   Looking on from left are Chicago’s Consul General Leo M. Herrera-Lim, Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas, Roberto J. T. Dispo, President, First Metro Investment Corporation, and Jesus M. Zulueta, Jr., Chairman, ZMG Ward Howell. (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Manny Zambrano)

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