April 19, 2010
Seeing a trend of low voters’ turnout after 9 days of the overseas absentee voting that started on April 10, a migrant workers’ rights group based in the Middle East urges the COMELEC Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting (COAV) in close coordination with the RP posts in the Middle East to come up with various ways and means to encourage OAVs to cast their votes until 10th of May.
“Issuing statements or advisories urging and encouraging Filipino overseas absentee voters (OAVs) to vote is not enough; there is still time remaining for the COMELEC-COAV and the various RP posts to find pro-active and doable ways and means to increase OAV turn-out,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional director.
Monterona observed since the start of the OAV, citing the report by the Foreign Affairs Department posted on its website, voters’ turnout in Riyadh is so dismal with 2,639 casted their votes, it is only 5% of the 52,869 registered absentee voters; while in Jeddah there is only 1,646 votes which is only about 4% of the 37,083 registered voters.
“The same dismal voters’ turnout is observed in most of the countries in the Middle East and other posts around the world with the exception of Hong Kong and Singapore where casting of votes are picking up,” Monterona added.
“It is on this basis that we are urging the COMELEC-COAV to consider for instance mobile voting by setting-up polling precinct via ‘Embassy on Wheels’ program in order to reach-out registered overseas voters who are far away from the RP embassies and consulates where the polling precincts are usually located; this may apply to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and in other similar host countries where OFWs are widely spread,” Monterona added.
Monterona added Migrante has been calling to the COMELEC and DFA since the start of OAV registration to consider the physical locations and concentrations of OFWs who are far away from RP post and consulate as it is a hindrance for them to register and cast their votes come voting period.
Monterona explained that for an OFW leaving outside Riyadh or Jeddah as far as 1,000 kilometer away from the Philippine Embassy or Philippine Consulate, he would think twice to vote or not to vote since travelling and its corresponding airfare cost would be a major consideration.
“This is aside from the fact that most of the employers won’t allow their hired workers to travel from their job sites or barracks without permission; same is true with household service workers or domestic workers; in their case, postal voting, not personal voting, is the most suited mode of voting,” Monterona added.
Monterona said Migrante recognizes that suffrage is both a right and duty as a citizen.
“But in the case of Filipino overseas voters facing lots of hindrance due to the prevailing strict political culture of the host governments and the very nature of their jobs and physical location away from the RP posts, the government must come up an affirmative, practical, and doable means and ways to pro-actively reach out the most number of Filipino overseas absentee voters by implementing such measures as enumerated above, among others,” Monterona ended.
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator