COMELEC union calls for justice for slain poll worker in Aurora

PRESS RELEASE
July 2, 2012
Reference:      Mac Ramirez, COMELEC-EU Coordinator
Contact:          comelecemployeesunion@gmail.com

COMELEC union calls for justice for slain poll worker in Aurora

The COMELEC Employees Union (COMELEC-EU) today condemned the senseless killing of a COMELEC employee in Maria Aurora Town in Aurora Province Saturday night.

Murdered by motorcycle riding gunmen was Romualdo Palispis, 51, Election Assistant at the Office of the Election Officer (OEO) at Maria Auroria. He was gunned down on Saturday night while playing his guitar inside his house in Barangay Tres.

“The COMELEC-EU condemns the senseless murder of our co-worker in Aurora. We call on the authorities to make every possible effort to bring the perpetrators to justice,” stated Mac Ramirez, National Coordinator of the COMELEC-EU.

According to Ramirez, Palispis is a known human rights advocate in the Province.

“The example of EA Palispis will serve as an inspiration to the thousands of COMELEC employees nationwide as we carry forward with our fight for decent wages, equal benefits and union rights. He may no longer be with us in this world, but his words ‘it is a sacred thing to uphold what is right and oppose what is wrong’ will forever remain with us,” Ramirez said. ###

Reblogged from http://comelecemployeesunion.wordpress.com/

Random listing in the Party-List ballot

The Commission on Elections, on June 15, 2012, issued a Resolution calling for the conduct of a raffle of accredited party-list groups “for purposes of determining their order of listing in the official ballot,” to be used in the May 13, 2013 national and local elections.

COMELEC Resolution No. 9467 states that “only party-list groups/coalitions accredited by or duly registered with the Commission, and which have manifested their desire to participate in the party-list election, may participate in the raffle for purposes of determining their order of listing in the ballot.”

The COMELEC said the raffle will be conducted on December 14, 2012 at the poll body’s main office in Manila.

But the move to abandon the alphabetical listing in the party-list ballot was met with criticism from several party-list groups. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares averred that this move “will cause massive delay in the voting.”

“We do not support this move because this will clog up precincts (as) it will take more time for voters to look for their party-lists. And if they do not find it or have a hard time doing so, they may just forgo voting for party-lists which would lead to their disenfranchisement,” said Colmenares.

Yacap Representative Carol Jane Lopez and DIWA Representative Emmeline Aglipay, meanwhile, said the new COMELEC rule would pose a problem to visually impaired voters.

Focus on the heart of the issue

Personally, I see no problem with the COMELEC’s move. I think this is a step in the right direction, as this finally addresses the shameful practice of some party-list groups who deliberately start their organization’s names with the letter “A” or the number “1” just so they would land in the top spot of the party-list ballot.

Party-list groups desperately scramble to the top spot precisely to take advantage of the hordes of Filipino voters who have little or no knowledge about the party-list system. This, for me, is the heart of the issue. 

That more than half of the Party-list groups that vied for seats in the 2010 elections had names starting with “A” or “1” is just symptomatic of this bigger problem.

Party-list legislators should then focus their attention in calling on the COMELEC to launch a massive and systematic information and education campaign on the party-list system. 

After all, an informed voter, who knows what is at stake in his party-list ballot, wouldn’t dare waste his vote by conveniently choosing the one on top of the list.

The problematic scenarios raised by our well meaning party-list legislators are, in fact, not new. We have been experiencing them even before when we still had the alphabetical sequence in the party-list ballot. But be assured, the same problems will still plague us even after we make the switch to randomization.

Because, again, the lack of education on the party-list system is the heart of the issue.

Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) in the Philippines

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 OAV

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.

Migrante averred:

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! 

Amend if you must, but do not curtail

COMELEC Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes Jr. (COMELEC Photo)

COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes recently called on Congress to amend the Party-List Law. He said, legislation is needed to “limit the sectors” who wishes to participate in the Party-List polls.

Right now, according to the COMELEC, there are 172 Party-lists that are seeking accreditation from the poll body. Because of that high number, the COMELEC has been conducting ‘marathon hearings’ in a bid to screen each applicant.

The COMELEC Chief seems troubled by the apparent high turn out of PL hopefuls that he wants to limit the number of those they will grant accreditation to to participate in the next year’s election, to 150.

True, the number’s quite staggering. But why fret?

Isn’t the high turn out indicative of a higher level of people’s appreciation to the Party-List System? After all, this is what Republic Act No. 7941 or the “Party-List System Act” is all about. To give the marginalized and the underrepresented sectors a chance to participate in making laws for benefit of the nation.

So I don’t see the anomaly there. It is in the manner of screening of PL applicants where the anomaly lies – the manner by which out and out fake party-list groups manage to get accreditation from the poll body.

I mean, how hard is it to spot a bogus party-list anyway?

Do we need an amendment to the law to be able to find out that an advocacy such as that of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD) can not, in any way, claim that it is a marginalized sector and that Mikey Arroyo does not, in any way, qualify as a poor and underrepresented security guard?

But while I fully agree with the COMELEC Chief that the PL Law needs to be reexamined; his way of doing it, I think, could trample on the people’s right to proportional representation.

Chairman Brillantes is treading on dangerous ground when he said “the law has to be specific. For example, among the professionals sector, when you allow security guards [to be represented], then you have to allow other professions.”

It baffles me as to why the Honorable Chairman wants to ‘limit’ the number of marginalized sectors who wish to participate in the party-list elections.  The COMELEC should not be be putting fences, right? it should be encouraging wider participation in the system.

Therefore, his proposal to ‘specify’ the marginalized sectors in the law, if only to weed out bogus party-lists, I believe, won’t won’t hold water. This would likely end up becoming a stumbling block towards the law’s intent of  promoting  proportional representation.

What needs tweaking in the law is the provision on the qualification of party-list nominees. This is the reason why the likes of Mikey Arroyo and Gen. Jovito Palparan made it to Congress, through the party-list system.

According to RA 7941:

Section 9. Qualifications of Party-List Nominees. No person shall be nominated as party-list representative unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, a resident of the Philippines for a period of not less than one (1)year immediately preceding the day of the election, able to read and write, a bona fide member of the party or organization which he seeks to represent for at least ninety (90) days preceding the day of the election, and is at least twenty-five (25) years of age on the day of the election.

So, a person such as the younger Arroyo need not be a security guard if he wants to represent security guards in Congress, if we are to follow the law.

Also, the P10,000 filing fee for filing of disqualification cases against bogus party-list groups should be scrapped.

Yes, the party-list system needs to be strengthened and protected from further abuse and bastardization. Yes, the party-list law needs to be revisited. But no, we should not curtail people’s  right to proportional representation.

—————————————————–

Kudos to Bayan Muna Party-list for filing House Resolution 2472 seeking to probe alleged ‘party-list accreditation bribery’ in COMELEC. The measure also calls for the abolition of the P10,000 party-list docket fee.

Gone to the dogs?

Photo from Bulatlat.com

There’s now a party-list for drug addicts and alcoholics, one for adult school dropouts and one for foreign exchange dealers. The three groups are among the more than 100 party-list organizations that are seeking accreditation from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for the May 2013 and succeeding party-list polls.

I had the chance to review the initial list of party-list hopefuls, and upon seeing it, I felt a bit sad for the country’s party-list system. Party-list groups such as Addicts and Alcoholics Carrying the Message Association Inc. (AACMA); WWW.FOREXDEALERS.COM CORP; Adult School Drop Outs (ASD) Party-list and AKO AT ANG BASURA MOVEMENT (AKO BA), to name a few; made me pause for a bit and contemplate if the system really has gone to the dogs.

Republic Act No. 7941 or the “Party-List System Act” provides that the State shall promote proportional representation in the House of Representatives for Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors in society. No doubt, the spirit and intent of the system is genuine and deserves our full support.

But since 1995, when the bill was enacted into law, the Party-list system of representation have been bastardized and abused to no end. And the ways and methods employed by enterprising party-lists and their representatives in circumventing this system range from evidently mendacious to downright brilliant.

Bastardized

We have seen personalities who have shamelessly used the Party-list as a ‘backdoor entry’ to Congress. Take the case of Presidential son and former Pampanga Congressman Mikey Arroyo. This self-proclaimed representative of Filipino security guards managed to win a Party-list seat two years ago. Gen. Jovito Palparan, notoriously known as “The Butcher” for his alleged lead role in murdering unarmed political activists wherever he is assigned, was also catapulted to Congress thru his party-list BANTAY. By no stretch of imagination would anyone – not even a toothless, shirtless jeepney barker – would believe that these buffoons belong to a marginalized sector. But they passed COMELEC screening anyway.

And so while a son of a former President and an infamous military general successfully landed seats intended for the poor in Congress, a lot of legitimate party-lists were denied accreditation by the poll body. Migrante Sectoral Party, who has members in more than 22 countries worldwide, was stricken off the list of qualified party-lists in 2010. COURAGE Government Employees Party-list was also disqualified in that same year.

187 Party-list organizations were accredited by the COMELEC for the 2010 elections. Of that number, 116 are parties with names starting with the letter “A” or the number “1”. Apparently, these parties desperately scrambled to land the top spot in the ballot to secure the votes of the ‘I-have-no-idea-about-the-Party-list-system-anyway-so-I-will-just-vote-for-the-one-on-top-of-the-list’ and the ‘I-have-no-time-to-skim-through-the-hordes-of-party-list-bets-so-I-will-just-vote-for-the-one-on-top-of-the-list’ type of voters. And, indeed, there were a lot of them! Just ask the 1-United Transport Koalisyon or 1-UTAK who were widely believed to win a seat in Congress by doing just that.

Thus, it is of no surprise that there are quarters that are calling for the re-examination of the party-list system with the view of strengthening it further. Others have gone as far as calling scrapping it altogether.

Vigilance is key

Indeed, steps must be done to insulate the party-list system from further bastardization and abuse, and this is not a task we should leave to the COMELEC or Congress alone. Ordinary citizens, most especially the legitimate party-list organizations must do something to uphold the genuine spirit and intent by which the law was crafted.

We must remain vigilant and keep a close watch on the COMELEC’s screening of party-lists and their nominees. Fake party-list organizations and charlatans who obviously do not belong to the marginalized sector should not be allowed to participate. They defeat the very purpose of the party-list system.

Aside from this, measures must also be undertaken by the COMELEC to keep the Party-list system more accessible and affordable. The system, after all, is for the poor, the marginalized and the underrepresented.

The P10, 000 filing fee and the legal research fee of P100 for filing of petitions for registration must be lowered if not scrapped. Filing fees (P10, 000) for petitions for cancellation of registration or disqualification of party-list and their nominee/s must likewise be lowered if not scrapped. A crackdown on reported syndicates that allegedly sell party-list registrations and nominations must also be carried out by the COMELEC.

Lastly, the COMELEC must conduct a massive and systematic information campaign to educate the public on the Party-list system. The phenomenon of party-lists scrambling for the topmost spot in the party-list ballot to capitalize on the huge number of uninformed voters is a clear indication of this very urgent need.

Undeniably, the party-list system of representation must be strengthened and protected from abuse. People’s vigilance is key to attaining this. Huwag nating sayangin ang dalisay na mithiin ng sistema para bigyan ng pagkakataon ang mga maliliit na tao na makabahagi sa pag-gawa ng mga batas para sa ikabubuti ng kanilang sektor.

Glitches on 1st day of poll registration: COMELEC field officials turn to Facebook

Field Officials of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) had Facebook, the hugely popular social networking site, to thank for solutions to glitches that marred the first day of voters’ registration in all areas nationwide except the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The COMELEC has again started the voters’ registration process last May 3, 2011 adopting biometrics technology which requires registrants to enter their biometric data (photograph, signature and thumb mark) in the registration process.

But the first day didn’t turn out to be problem free as a number of technical glitches in the COMELEC’s data capturing machines caused long lines in poll offices, irate registrants and even a scuffle at Makati’s poll office.

As expected phone lines at the COMELEC’s Information Technology Department (ITD) where busy because of the deluge of calls from COMELEC field officials who wanted solutions to problems such as inability or delay in photo capturing and a host of program glitches in the voters’ registration system (VRS), among others.

Enterprising Election Officers – who were also becoming exasperated not only because of the repeated busy tone on the other end of the line but also of nagging registrants waiting for their turn – however, has turned to Facebook for answers.

The FB group of the Alliance of COMELEC Employees in Service (ACES) was abuzz on May 3 as curious and/or infuriated Election Officers used the group page to air their concerns and other grievances.

One Election Assistant from Mindanao posted, “tumigas na ung applicant sa ka ka retake ng picture!” apparently complaining about the VRS camera that automatically captures the applicant’s pictures. He and others learned later that they only need to “uncheck the Auto Take and Auto Crop Boxes” in the VRS’ control panel menu, thanks to a post of a fellow employee in the ACES FB thread.

One Election Official from Southern Tagalog complained of having problems in the ‘validation’ process. Another griped about the need to literally “light up” the faces of applicants when taking their picture because of the dusky image that pops out of the computer screen. Because of this, a member even joked that “parang sisiw applicant na nakasalang sa vrs at tinatapatan pa ng ilaw nung isang staff hehe, wawa naman.”

COMELEC field officials must be commended for their efforts in making the first day of the year long poll registration a success despite the minor glitches.

They did a good job in ensuring that those who flocked to their offices were registered so they may vote in the 2013 elections and beyond. They did their best to find solutions to the problems that arose in the process that they even used Facebook to connect with other COMELEC personnel.

This is a testament to their commitment to serve the public.

FYI: Voters’ registration will run from May 3, 2011 until October 31, 2012.

It’s time for genuine OFW representation in gov’t

The successive crises that have overwhelmed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families recently – from the case of the three OFWs awaiting execution in China; the spate of revolutions that has engulfed a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries; and now the current humanitarian disaster in Japan resulting from the massive quake and tsunami last week – brings to the fore the urgent need for genuine OFW representation in government.

You see, aside from the anguish and distress suffered by the thousands of OFWs from these successive crises, the world have also seen glaring proof of the Philippine government’s utter failure to ensure the safety and security of their so-called ‘bagong bayanis.’

OFWs in China Deathrow

The government scrambled on the eleventh hour to save the three OFWs from execution in China. It must be remembered that through the early stages of the OFWs’ trial, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have been vocal in not extending legal aid to these troubled OFWs. It has even went to the extent of advising the OFWs to just “behave in prison to be pardoned.”

Though the government scored a diplomatic coup recently by managing to defer the scheduled execution last month through the effort of Vice President Jejomar Binay, China has eventually decided to push through with the execution.

It was last Thursday March 17, 2011 – as the nation commemorated the 16th Anniversary of the martyrdom of Flor Contemplacion, the OFW whose unjust hanging in Singapore exposed to the world the harsh realities of the Filipino forced migration – that China announced that the verdict against OFWs Ramon Credo, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva and Elizabeth Batain over drug trafficking charges, was indeed “final” and that the verdict will be carried out “sooner or later.”

In response, the Philippine government (as though ignorant of the weight that date holds for millions of Filipinos toling in all corners of the world and their families here in the country) have apparently raised the white flag and seemed proudly convinced that saving the three from sure death in China will be next to impossible.

DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario admitted that the government is now at a loss as to how they can prevent the execution from happening. Meanwhile, Malacanang has come out advising the OFWs’ kin to just “respect” Chinese laws, adding even that “there is no possibility for a commutation for the three.”

“We respect their decision,” a Presidential Spokesman said.

The execution of three Filipinos in China gallows, it must be emphasized, should not be seen as a victory against efforts to curb the menace of  international drug trade, because these so-called ‘mules’ are just victims of big time syndicates that prey on hapless Filipino workers so desperate to earn a few bucks so they can send enough money for their families at home.

The fact that there are Filipinos who are willing to risk their lives and livelihood for a quick buck by delivering illegal drugs, even inserting the merchandise into their privates, tells a lot about the abysmal economic state of the country.

There’ll be no drug mules, no OFWs even, if there are decent and sustainable jobs and farm lands to till here in the country.

So it is the height of official insensitivity and callousness for Malacanang to tell the poor OFWs’ families now to harp the  ‘China has spoken and the execution will push through so we just have to respect their decision’ mantra on the very day an OFW was executed in Singapore 16 years ago largely because of government’s criminal neglect!

Meanwhile, the largest alliance of OFW organizations worldwide, Migrante International, has been calling on the government from the very beginning to act on the cases of Filipinos unjustly jailed and on deathrow overseas.

Based on the group’s monitoring, “there are currently 125 OFWs in death row. Of the 125, 85 are drug-related and 79 of these are in China jails. The rest are in the Middle East, Malaysia and Thailand.”

Migrante Chairman Garry Martinez has squarely blamed this to the government’s unfettered “labor export policy”.

“Our Filipino workers will always be subjected to these tragedies for as long as the government sticks to promoting labor export policy unmindful of the welfare and protection of our OFWs. Unless the government creates enough decent jobs at home to curb forced migration, it will always be responsible for every life that is threatened, endangered or lost.”

On OFWs and wars

The tension and violence that gripped the countries such as Egypt, Libya, Bahrain in the past weeks, meanwhile, revealed how vulnerable OFWs are during times of conflicts and wars.

They become even more vulnerable when those who are supposed to protect them during these times are the ones who go missing in action or are the first ones to scamper away for safety.

Take the Philippine government’s response to the Libyan crisis for example.

During the height of hostilities in the strife-torn country, all the embassy and the DFA could tell the thousands of confused, war shocked and distraught OFWs there were “go to the Embassy in Tripoli if you wish to be repatriated or just stay put.”

Of course, this moronic instruction from the embassy and the DFA prompted the OFWs there to just organize themselves, brave the bullets and bombs just to get to the nearest border.

At the onset, the Filipino public had no idea that we indeed have an Ambassador in Tripoli. We only learned of this when the DFA deployed its so-called “Quick Reaction Team” headed by Ricardo Endaya. But when ‘help’ arrived, the fleeing OFWs were half way through their journey to the borders.

And so, the DFA QRT just made themselves comfortable in the Libya-Tunisian border. Some even commented that the team merely acted as a “reception committee” for the hordes of OFWs who escaped conflict-ridden Libya, sans government help.

Instead of getting their acts together, the government agencies concerned contented on blaming each other on the monumental blunder they made in the Libyan crisis.

Meanwhile, as the DFA brandishes their patented incompetence with regard to helping OFWs in distress and while it scrambles to explain why OFWs and their worried family members cant get through their much ballyhooed hotlines, Migrante International kept the nation updated on the latest situation on the ground.

And because the DFA’s ‘hotlines’ have become ‘not-lines’, according to some OFWs, Migrante also put up a crisis center and hotlines and posted contact persons and their numbers inside ravaged cities in Libya such as Benghazi and Tripoli.

As expected, the calls poured in and the public was kept abreast on the latest developments in Libya. According to some Migrante staff who manned their crisis center, even the DFA used the data they have gathered and shamelessly pointed OFWs in distress to Migrante’s contact persons in Tripoli, such as Fr. Alan Arcebuche, in case they need help inside Libya.

Those who managed to be repatriated from Libya were assured, however, of receiving baseball caps from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), a financial assistance worth P10,000 and promises of job deployment abroad!

Of course, OFWs deemed the government’s response as “unacceptable”

“We are gravely concerned that the Philippine government continues to send our workers abroad when they fail to protect the welfare of our OFWs during critical times,” Migrante Chairman Garry Martinez said. “But above all, Malacañang has not offered any clear and concrete response.”

The best economic alternative, according to Migrante, however, is to implement genuine agrarian reform program and nationalization of basic industries that would become our local economy’s backbone coupled with a well-planned, pro-people economic structural policy towards the desired economic development.

OFWs and natural disasters

If you thought the government learned its lesson during the Libyan crisis, think again. It demonstrated, yet again, their world-class incompetence when a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit Japan last March 11, 2011.

According to Migrante’s chapter in Japan, the Philippine Embassy there waited three full days to check on the situation of Filipinos affected by the disaster.

“Para lang silang namamasyal sa koen (park) at nakipag-tsismisan sa mga kababayan natin doon,”Rossana Tapiru, the group’s representative said.

The consular mission was dispatched Monday, March 14, 2011, upon the orders of Ambassador Manuel Lopez following an SOS from 20 Filipino seafarers trapped inside a hotel in Fukushima, one of the areas devastated by the double disaster.

MIGRANTE Japan said that it took the embassy three full days before it could finally send a mission there, but sadly, the mission had barely little to offer relief for distraught Filipinos there.

What’s worse, the Philippine Embassy abandoned the OFWs in their time of need. In the aftermath of the tremor and tsunami that hit Japan, Migrante Japan said, “this is the most dastardly act we’ve seen so far from officials of the Philippine embassy in Tokyo.”

“They have done so little yet, and now they are abandoning their post to save their themselves leaving our distraught compatriots fending for themselves. What a disgrace!”

The group pointed a distress call from Filipino students in Japan who complained of insensitivity and ineptness of the consular team who were on a rush to get back to Tokyo with or without the rest of the Filipinos still in the area.

For its part, Migrante Japan, regularly posts updates and lists down names of Filipinos reportedly missing or found via their hotlines. The said list, by the way, is regularly and shamelessly copy-pasted by the DFA and the PHL embassy in Tokyo to make it appear that they are doing their jobs.  (See for yourselves here and compare it to this link here.)

The need for genuine OFW representation

In light of the appalling condition of OFWs and their families brought about by the government’s criminal neglect on their rights and well-being, the need for genuine OFW representation in government has become even more apparent.

Although Migrante Sectoral Party ran during the 2004 party-list race, it didn’t garner enough votes to secure a seat in Congress. The Party, then decided to not participate in the 2007 elections in order to strengthen its organization and prepare for the elections in 2010.

Consolidated and ready, the Migrante Sectoral Party filed its Certificate of Candidacy for the 2010 Party-list race. But the group was delisted by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) allegedly for failing to get at least two percent of votes in the last two elections prior to 2010.

But the group averred that the delisting reeked of political vendetta as it is widely known to constantly criticize the government’s failure to protect its workers abroad.

“In good faith, we said we will first strengthen the party-list. This time we think we’re ready because now our group has a wider coverage, we are even present in 23 countries,” Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante, told GMANews.TV.

According to Regalado, the Comelec decision was “politically motivated.”

“We think our delistment is politically motivated because we are a progressive party-list group that is critical of the policies of the government for its forced migration strategies,” she said.

But there seems to be chance for Migrante to finally be allowed to truly represent OFWs and their families interests in Congress.

The Supreme Court on April 29, 2010 ruled in favor of the petition of the Party-List PGBI to annul COMELEC Resolution 8679 which delisted 26 Party-List groups (including PGBI) for failing to garner 2% of the votes in the last two elections.

Remember, Migrante was also among the Party-Lists by the COMELEC delisted citing the same reason.

The dispositive portion of the Supreme Court Decision (G.R. No. 190529) reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we GRANT the petition and accordingly ANNUL COMELEC Resolution No. 8679 dated October 13, 2009 insofar as the petitioner PGBI is concerned, and the Resolution dated December 9, 2009 which denied PGBI’s motion for reconsideration in SPP No. 09-004 (MP). PGBI is qualified to be voted upon as a party-list group or organization in the coming May 2010 elections.

So you see, OFWs have the chance to be truly represented in Congress after all.  When Migrante so decides to again gun for a Congressional seat or seats via the Party-List System in the 2013 elections, the COMELEC will have no reason any more to deny their accreditation.

Let us just hope that Migrante will be able to gather enough votes to win seats in the 2013 polls!

On the Govt’s plan to automate the voting in HK, Singapore

The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Commission on Elections have recenty inked a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to pilot test the automated voting of Filipino overseas absentee voters in Hong Kong and Singapore.

A total of 128, 272 Filipino voters in both countries are expected to cast their ballots in the first ever automated Philippine elections abroad. It is also said that the Philippine Government has set aside P40 million for the planned automated voting.

While the automation of the Filipino overseas vote is indeed a welcome development, I believe there are some questions that the COMELEC and the DFA should address:

The first thing Philippine election authorities should address is the question of HOW are they going to go about the automated balloting in the two OFW rich countries. They say that more than 128,000 Filipino voters in both countries are expected to participate; so if the automated counting machines (Precinct Count Optical Scan) can accomodate only 1,000 voters per precinct according to the COMELEC, does it mean the COMELEC will be deploying 128 PCOS machines in HK and Singapore?

Second, where does the government plan to set up those machines? Will they be placed only inside the Philippine Consulate or will they be scattered to different locations around HK and Singapore?

According to the COMELEC’s Calendar of Activities for the 2010 elections, overseas absentee voters will start casting their ballots starting April 10, 2010 until May 10, 2010. If they are going to automated the HK, Singapore vote, will the machines be deployed there for a period of one month?

What if a machine breaks down, will there be spare machines or will those be coming from the Philippines as well?

Lastly – and I think this is the most important – who are going to man the PCOS machines for the possible month long balloting? Will it be the Consulate officials? If so, are they trained and familiar with the technology?

The government should address this questions right away so as to forestall any apprehension of a possible wholesale disenfranchisement of thousands of voters in HK and Singapore.

These two countries have been consistently placed among the top 10 countries who have the highest number of registered Filipino overseas absentee voters. It would be unforgivable if their votes wouldn’t count in May 10, 2010.