Overseas Filipino workers make an annual remittance of over US$5 billion a year yet a simple pre-paid envelope to ensure that they can exercise their right to vote was “too expensive” for the government.
It was the same story in Australia – overseas absentee voters had to pay for the stamps or deliver their sealed ballots personally to the Consulate office. When asked why a pre-paid envelope wasn’t provided, we were told “one dollar lang naman at saka para naman ito sa bayan, di ba? Kami nga, $2 per mailed ballot”. When we prodded further, we were told that pre-paid stamps will be very costly. “Imagine if we have 100,000 registered OAVs, that’s already AUD$100,000”, a consulate official said.
In Australia, ballots were mailed out on the 11th of April, a Thursday and it usually takes 2-3 business days for regular letters to be received by the addressee. When we asked why the ballots were not sent out earlier, were told that they had to wait for COMELEC to approve the budget for the mailing of the ballots. In Sydney, at least 600 ballots were returned (RTS – return to sender) to the Consulate.
While nothing controversial happened throughout the ballot feeding – the most exciting being “fake ballot detected” (the ballot paper was stained, like dried watermarks) – the fact remains that overseas Filipino workers whose voice matters in the election have been disenfranchised through the non-provision of self-stamped envelopes.
The overall May 13 national and local election results in Australia is yet to be known. In a phone call to the Embassy this afternoon, we were told that they were transmitting the election results to Comelec today and that the result will be on their website tonight. May it be so.
To overseas Filipino workers, this election is a nail to the coffin. The Duterte government does not care about our rights and welfare. It is a blatant disrespect and disregard for our human rights.
16 May 2019