26 April 2010
Seeing a trend of low voters’ turnout after more 2 weeks of the overseas absentee voting that started on April 10, a migrant workers’ rights group based in the Middle East last week have urged the COMELEC Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting (COAV) and the RP posts in Saudi Arabia to come up with various ways and means to encourage OAVs to cast their votes until 10th of May.
The COMELEC-COAV and the Philippine Embassy responded affirmatively to this call.
“We have been informed that the COMELEC Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting (COAV) and the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia have allowed overseas absentee voting to alternately cast their votes in three (3) different polling centers, wherever is convenient and accessible to them,” today said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.
On April 20, 2010, on a press release by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh posted on its website (http://www.philembassy-riyadh.org/index.php/pressreleases/details/266), the RP post officially informed all Filipinos, especially registered overseas absentee voters, in Saudi Arabia allowing the voters whose names were listed in Riyadh to vote in Al-Khobar and vice-versa.
“The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, wishes to inform all Filipinos in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that in a letter by the Chairman of the Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting (COAV), Commissioner Armando C. Velasco to Vice Chairman of DFA-OAVS Nestor N. Padalhin dated 19 April 2010, “the manual tagging system” has been approved,” the RP embassy on its April 20 press release.
The so called “manual tagging system” will also allow overseas absentee voters in Buraydah to cast their vote in Riyadh, and vice-versa.
“This is a good move; it will surely be a big help to overseas absentee voters (OAVs) who have been deployed in other places or have changed their accommodation. The new rule could give them ease going to the nearest polling precinct to cast their vote,” Monterona added.
Monterona, however, said that the ideal set-up is to establish polling centers and precincts in every area, it might be a city or municipality or province in Saudi Arabia, where there are large concentration of OFWs.
“The Philippine Embassy and Consulate and the COMELEC-COAV now realizes and considers the physical locations of the OFWs who are widely disperse all over the Kingdom; thus establishing a polling centers in every OFW populated areas should be seriously considered,” Monterona added.
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 travel costs would be a major consideration.
Monterona added that 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.
“Inshallah (if God’s will) we will be pushing this idea in the next and future elections or conduct of the Overseas absentee voting not only in Saudi Arabia but also in other countries in the Middle East,” Monterona added.
“Filipino overseas voters in the Middle East face lots of hindrance due to strict political culture of the host governments and the very nature of OFWs jobs and physical location away from the RP posts; the government should not stop thinking an affirmative, practical, and doable means and ways in pro-actively reaching out the most number of Filipino overseas absentee voters by implementing measures that would encourage them to vote,” Monterona ended.
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator