Pimentel wants OAV registration more accessible to OFWs

Posted at 06/24/2009 7:01 PM | Updated as of 06/30/2009 3:03 PM

MANILA - A lawmaker on Wednesday said mobile voters registration centers should be put in place in areas with huge numbers of Filipino overseas workers.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., in a statement, proposed that Philippine embassies and consulates abroad set up these centers to encourage more OFWs to register and exercise their right of suffrage.

“In Saudi Arabia and the US, for example, there are Filipinos who live in states or provinces that are too far away from the Philippine embassy or consulate, which are the designated registration and voting centers,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel is in Geneva to attend the conference of the Human Rights of Parliamentarians.

“To register, they have to take the plane. In Saudi Arabia, they have to cross hundreds or thousands of miles of desert to reach Riyadh or Jeddah where our diplomatic officials are based. How can you expect these overseas Filipinos to avail of their voting right in the face of these constraints?” he said.

The senator from Mindanao received a report in Amsterdam that roughly only 800 overseas Filipinos in the Netherlands registered to vote in next year’s election.

He stressed that the deficiencies in the Overseas Absentee Voting Act (Republic Act 9189) should be corrected to encourage Filipinos abroad to vote and to help them overcome problems in registering and casting their ballots.

“Unless these flaws are rectified by amendment of the law if necessary or by action of the COMELEC (Commission on Elections) where possible a huge number of qualified overseas Filipinos will be deterred from availing of their right to vote for national government officials in their homeland,” said Pimentel.

Pimentel said the Department of Foreign Affairs and COMELEC set up voters’ registration stations in the international airports in cities abroad where departing or arriving Filipinos can sign up or get their registration forms.

The COMELEC is targeting to obtain one million OAV voters. Early reports stated that more than 100,000 were purged in April 2009 for failure to vote in the past two elections.

The DFA’s Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat reported that the OAV registration just passed the 100,000 mark last June 15. As of June 24, there are now 113,491 OAV registrants with Asia and the Pacific having the highest number of registrants at 31,296. The figure is however much short of the target one-million total of overseas registrants by August 31, which is the end of the registration period of overseas voters.

Pimentel said that of the estimated more than 4 million qualified overseas Filipinos, only 365,000 registered of which only 65 percent or 233,092 cast their votes in the 2004 national and local elections.

In the 2007 election, records show that 503,896 overseas Filipinos registered but a mere 21 percent or 81,732 cast their ballots.