By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Overseas Absentee Voting was implemented in 2004 so that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) could exercise their right to vote. But since then, Migrante International has been criticizing the government’s insincerity in implementing Republic Act (RA) 9198 or the Overseas Absentee Voting Law (OAV) as shown by the unsystematic and inconvenient processes instituted in the registration, voting and counting of votes.
Early this year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) set a target of one million new overseas voters. But at the end of the registration period, only 229, 165 registered as new voters. The shortfall in meeting the target number of new voters, Migrante Sectoral Partylist spokesperson Lian Santos said, could be attributed to the fact that an OFW would have to travel two to eight hours just to reach the nearest embassy or consulate to register and vote. Aside from being time consuming, it also entails transportation expenses, which, according to Santos, OFWs would rather save to send home to their families.
Santos said this problem has not been addressed by Comelec since the implementation of the OAV two elections ago. He said satellite registration and voting centers should be set up to make it easier for OFWs to register and vote to encourage them to participate in the coming presidential elections. “Our Migrante chapters are one in urging embassies and consulates abroad to set up registration precincts in strategic locations to make it more convenient for OFWs,” Santos said.
Aside from this, the Comelec has also shortened the registration period to six months. During the 2007 elections, OFWs were given 13 months to register. “Because of this, many were not able to register. The government seems to be more concerned with cutting down on costs and lessening workloads,” Santos told told Bulatlat.
Since most OFWs have only one day off per week, they were, technically, given only 28 days to register for the 2010 elections. “We are inviting Comelec commissioners to visit OFWs in the Middle East, specifically in Saudi Arabia, so that they will see why OFWs are having a hard time registering given the short period provided,” Migrante secretary general Gina Esguerra said. Migrante has already filed an appeal to hold special registrations up to November 20 since November 21 is the first day of the filing of candidacy. But their appeal was denied.