Dubai: Lou Parocco was huffing, trying to catch her breathe, as she entered the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) in Dubai on Monday, to beat the 3pm deadline on the last day of the monthlong Philippine overseas voting (OV).
Parroco was the last person to cast her vote in the electoral process that kicked off on April 10. In the last 30 days, thousands of Filipinos in Dubai and the Northern Emirates exercised their right to suffrage and chose the next Philippine president, vice-president, 12 senators and partylist representative.
“The monthlong Philippine overseas voting ended on a high-note on Monday, with no untoward incident. We’ve also registered a high turnout of voters in the past 30 days,” Philippine consul general Renato Dueñas Jr. told Gulf News.
He added: “We thank our kababayans (countrymen) who have worked with us and came here to vote. We are very happy with the hight turnout and huge interest of Filipinos in this electoral process.”
The Philippine consul-general said the electronic counting of votes — to be witnessed by poll watchers and election volunteers — will take place immediately inside the PCG. “(Election) results in Dubai will be known in a matter of few hours,” noted Dueñas, adding: “results will be posted here inside the PCG so everyone will know, including the media. The results will then be transmitted to the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi for canvassing.”
There are about 1.7 million registered overseas Filipino voters all over the world. Dubai PCG has the most number of registered overseas voters, with a total of 191,779 voters while the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi has 117,840 Filipino expatriates eligible to vote.
Back in 2010, 12 per cent or 3,693 out of 30,679 registered voters in Dubai cast their vote. The number of voters grew tenfold in 2016, where 37,950 or 31 per cent of the 122,953 registered Filipinos went to the polls in Dubai.
Ten candidates are vying to become the next Philippine president for a six-year term. Among the candidates are opposition stalwart Leni Robredo, who is also the current vice-president of the Philippines and the only woman among the presidential candidates; boxing icon and incumbent senator Manny Pacquiao; Manila Mayor Isko Moreno; incumbent senator Panfilo Lacson; former undersecretary of Foreign Affairs and presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella; labour leader Leody de Guzman; former secretary of National Defence Norberto Gonzales; businessman Faisal Mangondato; lawyer/doctor Jose Montemayor; and former senator Bongbong Marcos.
Who Filipinos in Dubai chose
According to some political observers, the election is not just about charting a better future for the Philippines but also underscoring a correct version of the past — a reference to some quarters in politics trying to revise the country’s history.
Parroco, who is originally from Bacolod, a city on Negros Island in central Philippines, told Gulf News she chose the candidate who has “strong political will and someone who hates corruption”.
Parroco, who is well known in the Filipino community for her advocacy during the pandemic, added: “I chose a leader who has proven track record in the government and someone I believed could lead our country out of the pandemic.”
Noel and Josette Gamit were also among the hundreds of Filipinos who cast their vote on the last day of overseas voting. The Filipino couple, who have been living in Dubai since 2002, said it was only their first time to cast their votes and the “high-stakes in this election prompted them to go out and vote.”
“We voted for a strong leader who could lead our country towards a better future. In particular, our vote was inspired by thinking of the future of our kids, aged 14, nine and one,” they added.
With their young daughter in tow, Filipino couple Julius and April Veraque, also took leave from work to cast their ballots They said: “We brought along our daughter as a reminder why we came here to vote. This is for her future.”
Liezl and Arnie Tarroza, meanwhile, took leave from work and drove all the way from Sharjah to vote on Monday. They said the process went smooth and they are keenly waiting the results of the elections.
In the last presidential election in 2016, 62,103 Filipinos cast their votes out of the 195,651 Filipinos in the UAE who registered to vote, for a 31.74 per cent voter turnout.
Eventual winner President Rodrigo Duterte emerged as the clear favourite with Filipino voters in the UAE. He got 51,879 votes, while then administration candidate Mar Roxas received 3,985 votes, followed by former senator Miriam Defensor Santiago with 3,483. Grace Poe and then vice-president Jejomar Binay got 1,708 and 786 votes respectively.
For vice president, Marcos (who ran under the ticket of Santiago) topped the UAE overseas votes with 25,319 votes. He was followed by Cayetano (running mate of Duterte) with 23,583 votes while Robredo (then running mate of Roxas) received 10,347 votes.
Marcos also won in various Philippine missions across the world, where he gained a total of 176,669 over Robredo, who got 89,935 votes.
Robredo, however, eventually won the elections by over by 260,000 votes in the neck-and-neck race against Marcos, who filed an electoral protest. The Philippine Supreme Court, who acted as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, dismissed the election protest of Marcos against Robredo with a unanimous vote of 15-0.