‘Shortened Absentee Voting Registration to Disenfranchise OFWs’ – Migrante

On Nov. 25, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc passed a resolution moving the date of the OAV registration to February 2009 instead of this December. This, in effect, shortens the time allotted for the OAV registration from nine to seven months. Migrante said this would result in the disenfranchisement of OFWs working in places far from Philippine embassies.

BY BULATLAT
MIGRANT WATCH

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ organizations in the Middle East slammed the postponement of the Overseas Absentee Voters (OAV) registration for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), saying this would disenfranchise ‘millions’ of OFWs.

On Nov. 25, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc passed a resolution moving the date of the OAV registration two months later. The OAV registration was supposed to begin this December but has been postponed to February next year. The registration would still end in August 2009.

The Comelec said the reason for the postponement is the late delivery of data capturing machines to some Philippine posts abroad.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said that shortening the duration of the OAV registration from nine to seven months is unreasonable, unjust and unconstitutional.

Monterona said that the failure of the Comelec to deliver the data capturing machines, on time, to different posts abroad should not be made as an excuse to postpone the registration.

Monterona said that based on experience during previous OAV registrations, the nine-month duration is not even enough.

Monterona said that in Saudi Arabia, for instance, 1.2 million OFWs are scattered in different distant locations.

“Previous OAV registrations were only held in Riyadh where the Philippine Embassy is located, and in Jeddah where the Philippine Consulate General office is stationed. But in fact, many OFWs are also concentrated in the Eastern part of Saudi Arabia like Dammam and Al Khobar. Many OFWs are also working in Jubail and Tabuk, in the northern part of Saudi Arabia,” Monterona added.

Monterona also said that the proposal to set up mobile or satellite registration areas where there are large concentrations of OFWs was ignored by the Comelec.

GMANews.tv reported that there were 504,110 registered overseas absentee voters (OAV) during the 2007 elections. Of this number, only 20 percent have reportedly participated and exercised their right to vote.

In a statement, Gina Esguerra, secretary general of Migrante International, said that the rescheduling of the OAV registration is ‘a deliberate move of the Arroyo regime to again disenfranchise overseas Filipino voters.’

Esguerra said, “This regime is scared stiff of the cast iron rejection the OFW sector would give Arroyo and her allies in 2010. It is no secret that compared to that of their rivals, this regime has zero credibility among OFWs and this is the reason why they moved to shorten the OAV registration period.”

She also dismissed as ‘doubletalk’ the Comelec’s statement that they are targeting an increase of one million more OAV voters for the 2010 elections. “How can they register an additional one million Filipino voters abroad if they lessened the registration period from nine months to seven months? Who are they fooling?” she said.

The group said they would initiate a global petition to protest the Comelec’s postponement of the OAV registration and to call for a massive election information drive among OFWs.

“While we harbor no illusions that the current electoral system can deliver us from the horrendous conditions we suffer from abusive employers abroad and from this criminally negligent government, we vow to fight for our right to suffrage as overseas absentee voters so that we can at least junk Arroyo and her allies by way of the ballot and beat them at their own game,” Esguerra said.(Bulatlat.com)

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