Migrante International expresses indignation over the outright disenfranchisement of 1.8 M registered Filipino overseas absentee voters (OAV) who want to fully participate and exercise their democractic right to vote in the upcoming May 13 Philippine elections.
It is of grave concern that the COMELEC and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) did not prepare to ensure that Filipino migrants who have opted for postal voting would receive their ballots in the mail in a timely manner. The option to vote by mail is critical to thousands of overseas absentee voters who lack access to resources and time to travel to their nearest consulates or voting centers because of the distance from their workplace or home.
Negligent in their duty, COMELEC failed to ensure that overseas absentee voters receive all the necessary information and materials to prepare them for the elections even prior to April 13, the first day overseas absentee voters can officially vote.
Additionally, placing the burden on overseas absentee voters themselves to pay the costs of the return postal stamps is an insult to Filipino migrants who have already been subjected to numerous fees exacted by the Philippine government prior to leaving abroad, and whose remittances has served as a lifeline for the Philippine economy.
This is a clear violation of Republic Act 9189, which guarantees that overseas absentee voters will not have to shoulder any costs related to the process of voting. COMELEC’s admission of lack of financial resources to pay for postage stamps due to the delay in the passage of the national budget is unacceptable, further revealing that protecting the constitutional right of all Philippine citizens to vote is not a priority of this administration.
The present barriers placed on overseas Filipino voters is a serious matter and is a testament to the erosion of democracy in the Philippines. As Filipino migrants who are deeply invested in and concerned for the future of the Philippines, we refuse to have our voices and votes be silenced.
Migrante International will continue to monitor, document and file reports of any cases of disenfranchisement and discrepancies in the overseas absentee voting process. ###