As OAV Starts: Migrants Vow to Guard Vote and Frustrate Arroyo Party-list Bids

As the month-long Overseas Absentee Voting starts on April 10, Migrante International, together with families of distressed OFWs and ex-OFWs, urged their loved ones and kababayans abroad to exercise their right to vote and tightly guard their votes against “imminent” fraud, amid the first use of the Automated Elections System and the plans of President Arroyo to remain in power beyond her term.

“We call on our fellow OFWs to go out and cast their ballots, in order to ensure that only candidates and party-lists who truly advance the interests of migrant workers and their families get elected. Now is our chance to finally unseat and punish Arroyo, who in her nine years in power neglected our welfare and only treated us as exploited commodities,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International’s chairperson.

Migrante Watch, the OFW group’s electoral watch campaign has set up a hotline (09226824187), where Filipino migrants around the world can report cases of disenfranchisement and irregularities in the conduct of the OAV.

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It is paying close attention to vote-rich Hong Kong and Singapore where the AES will be conducted. “Our kababayans in these countries will be the ‘guinea pigs’ of the AES—voting here will show whether the Commission on Elections is indeed capable of holding orderly and credible automated elections, considering its already grave lapses. It may be a potent of things to come on May 10,” Martinez added.

A mere four days before the start of the OAV, OFWs in Hong Kong were re-assigned precincts, causing confusion among registered voters. They also previously complained of lack of voter’s education and the inadequacy of the number of Precinct Optical Scan Machines deployed by Comelec.

Migrante International also called on OFWs to frustrate the bids of Arroyo-backed party-lists claiming to represent OFWs, which they identified as Akbay Pinoy OFW Inc. (APOI) and KALAHI Sectoral Party. APOI’s first nominee, Melchor Rosales, was an Interior and Local Government Undersecretary and is a retired major general. Meanwhile, KALAHI’s first nominee, Eleazar Quinto, is Director-General of the Presidential Coalition Affairs Office and former Environment Undersecretary.

“It is obvious that these party-lists do not truly represent OFWs, like it is obvious that President Arroyo is using these fake party-lists to dominate Congress and eventually gain power through it,” said Martinez.

Instead, the group encouraged OFWs to vote for those who have a track record in upholding migrant rights and welfare and are clearly progressive and anti-Arroyo, mentioning senatoriables Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, and Gabriela Women’s Party.

“Our OFWs deserve no less than leaders who are brave enough to question how the Arroyo government’s failure at domestic job creation and aggressive labor export program has wrenched Filipinos away from their families and forced them into slave-like and abusive work conditions abroad. They deserve leaders who will protect migrant rights and provide genuine service to OFWs, instead of treating them as cash cows. They deserve leaders who will not use their name for personal gain, especially during elections, as Arroyo shamefully did and still does,” Martinez said.

Joining Migrante International in the press conference and launch of Migrant Watch are families of Annasban workers in Saudi Arabia who recently stopped work due to contract violations, and of more than 150 bus drivers in the same country who are victims of overcharging of placement fees and onerous loans by lending agencies.

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