PH consulate in NY to send out ballots as soon as possible: Cato

MANILA – The Philippine Consulate General in New York would send out the ballots for overseas absentee voting as soon as possible, Consul General Elmer Cato said Sunday.

In a statement, Cato announced that the boxes containing the equipment and election paraphernalia had just arrived at the FedEx Facility in New Jersey while other packages have departed Alaska.

Unless there are unforeseen factors, the envoy said other packages would be delivered to the Consulate by Monday.

“We cannot send out unless we receive the ballots. We will send them out as soon as we receive them,” Cato said.

Meanwhile, he defended the Consulate anew after some members of the Filipino community said the shipping delay of election materials and “general lack of timely information on the voting process” are shaping up as form of voter disenfranchisement.

At least 64 Filipinos, in an open letter posted at Action Network, demanded the immediate dissemination of electronic and printed voting materials, information on the voting process, and the creation of a help desk to assist voters, a mechanism Cato said was already established as early as the start of the registration process in 2020.

“We lament the confrontational manner in which kababayan (countrymen) belonging to such groups as the Malaya Movement, Bayan-USA, and Migrante USA are addressing the issue of the delays and their insinuations that the Philippine Consulate General in New York and the Consul General are involved in a supposed conspiracy to disenfranchise voters,” Cato said.

He added: “The misplaced sentiments of kababayan(s) aligned with these groups do not reflect the sentiments of the Filipino Community in the United States Northeast. It also does not reflect the position of other kababayan(s) who support the same candidates they are supporting.”

Cato said the concerned Filipinos should have reached out directly to the Consulate as it has a dedicated email account that actively responds to overseas voting-related inquiries (newyorkpcg.ov@dfa.gov.ph).

He added that the Consulate had been discussing overseas voting in several virtual townhall meetings over the past months, including posting advisories on its website and social media platforms.

“We have been addressing election-related questions online and in our in-person interactions with the Filipino Community. At 7 p.m. on Monday, we would be holding another town hall meeting with the Commission on Elections to explain the postal voting method with our kababayan(s) and, at the same time, respond to their election-related queries,” he said.”This webinar is to ensure that all votes cast will be counted as valid and none will be deemed invalid due to errors in the accomplishment of the ballots. This is the antithesis of disenfranchisement because we are continuing to conduct activities that emphasize maximum participation and that all votes are important,” Cato added.