Today we celebrate National Migrant Workers’ Day!
In commemoration of this occasion, I deemed it necessary to focus on Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV), the mechanism by which our kababayans abroad may participate in electing our leaders here in the Philippines.
The right to suffrage of Filipino citizens, here and abroad, is enshrined in the highest law of the land.
Section 2, Article V of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “Congress shall provide a system of securing the secrecy and sanctity of the ballots as well as the system for absentee voting by qualified Filipinos abroad.”
Thus on February 13, 2003, Republic Act No. 9189 or the “Overseas Absentee Voting Act” was made into law, granting “all citizens of the Philippines abroad” the right to vote for President, Vice-President, Senators and Party-list representatives.
But since its enactment eleven years ago, Filipinos overseas have yet to reap the benefits of full voting rights as promised by the Constitution. Participation by our overseas compatriots in the system remain dismally low.
Migrante International, the biggest alliance of OFW organizations worldwide, maintained that the low participation can not be attributed to the so called “growing apathy” among overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), contrary to claims by the government and some migrant advocacy groups.
While OAV turn-out was indeed low, we believe that it is more important and urgent to review and evaluate the limiting provisions in Republic Act 9189 or the OAV Act , as well as the indifference of some government agencies, particularly the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), to OFWs’ issues and complaints pertaining the actual processes and implementing procedures of the OAV. These, primarily, are the main reasons for the massive disenfranchisement of overseas Filipino voters.
The group prepared a Position Paper on what they think the government should undertake in order to improve the system.
I believe Congress and the COMELEC should seriously consider Migrante’s proposals.
In the meantime, I strongly urge Filipinos overseas to register as overseas absentee voters. OAV Registration have been running since October 31 last year. It will end on October 31, 2012.
Qualified Filipinos abroad may file their applications for registration at their Philippine Posts or Consulates. They need only bring their passports- and in the case of the seafarers, their Seaman’s Books – to register.
To learn more on the basic features of the OAV, below is a power point presentation prepared by the COMELEC Education and Information Department on the Basic Features of the OAV. Kindly click on the link to download: 2011_oav_regn
OFWs Kalahok sa Pagbabago! Magparehistro para Makaboto!