As registration for overseas absentee voting (OAV) opens on November 2, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be delisting some 200,000 overseas absentee voters.
According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, while it is within the bounds of the OAV Law to cleanse the list of OAV registrants and remove those who failed to vote in the last two elections, it would be best to “think twice and re-evaluate” the reasons why overseas voters were not able to exercise their right to vote.
Last 2010, 589,830 overseas Filipinos registered to vote, but only 152, 323 or 26 percent voted. This figure is a far cry in 2004, when the OAV was first implemented, where 233,094 out of 359,297 or 65 percent voted. In 2007, turnout dropped to only 16 percent, or only 81,732 out of 503,896 registered overseas absentee voters.
Martinez attributed the disenfranchisement of overseas Filipino voters to “limiting provisions” in the OAV Act, as well as the failure of some government agencies to address issues and complaints pertaining to the actual processes and implementing procedures of the OAV.
“The disenfranchisement of overseas voters cannot just be dismissed as the result of a so-called ‘growing apathy’ among overseas Filipinos, contrary to claims by the government and some migrant advocacy groups,” Martinez said.
He cited the following recommendations to improve the OAV (please see attached position paper):
- The conduct of the OAV registration should be all-year round, more systematic, wide-spread and accessible.
- There is an urgent need to conduct a more massive voter education drive by the government.
- Special attention should be given to vulnerable sectors, such as undocumented migrants, domestic workers (without leave and holidays), and the most disenfranchised, seafarers.
- The mandatory requirement of affidavit of intent to return for immigrants should be scrapped.
Martinez said that both the Comelec and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have also admitted that they lack the machinery and technology to implement the OAV, especially in light of the automated election system (AES). “Yet the budget for the implementation of the OAV in the DFA budget has been retained, no increases were made in the measly allotment.”
Migrante International expressed willingness to coordinate with the Comelec and other concerned government agencies and posts to increase OAV awareness among Filipino communities abroad. It is also set to launch a worldwide voter registration and awareness campaign for overseas. ###