Closure of PH posts will further disenfranchise overseas voters

An organization of overseas Filipino workers today expressed deep concern over plans of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to close down at least 12 Philippine posts abroad by the end of 2012 saying that it would only further disenfranchise overseas absentee voters.

Migrante Sectoral Party said that closure of PH embassies and posts abroad would definitely add another major obstacle for overseas Filipinos who wish to exercise their right to register and vote for overseas absentee voting (OAV).

According to Connie Bragas-Regalado, president of Migrante Sectoral Party, since the OAV Law took effect, one of the perennial problems of overseas Filipinos from the registration to the voting process was the inaccessibility of PH posts.

“Our PH posts serve as Comelec posts abroad, in charge of facilitating registration and voting for overseas absentee voters. As it is, our PH posts are not sufficient in number and some are already over-expanding in scope. We only currently have 66 PH embassies, 23 consulates and four diplomatic missions around the world, while overseas Filipinos are scattered in at least 239 countries worldwide,” said Bragas-Regalado.

“It is even now safe to say that one of the main reasons for the low turnout of OAV registrants may be because our kababayans are finding it hard to access our PH posts. Now they want to make it harder for our kababayans. Kapag sinara ang mga embahada, saan na sila magpaparehistro para sa OAV?” Bragas-Regalado said.

Bragas-Regalado also said that while the plan to close down PH posts by end of 2012 is mainly for “austerity measures”, the Philippine government appears to be applying the same scheme for overseas absentee voting.

“For 2012, the government did not allot a single additional centavo for the implementation of the OAV,” Bragas-Regalado said. For fiscal year 2012, the budget for OAV remained at Php43.4 million, same as the year before.

“2012 is a crucial year for OAV registration for the upcoming 2013 elections. How can the government reach its one million target (of OAV registrants) with this meager budget? What will it cover? Is it enough for voter-education and additional personnel for a massive registration drive?”

Migrante Sectoral Party announced that it is set to launch voter-education programs and registration campaigns in Filipino communities worldwide.###