6:58 am | Saturday, September 8th, 2012
MANILA, Philippines—With about 50 days left before the close of the voter registration period for the 2013 poll, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday made a last call for overseas Filipino workers to enlist at the embassy closest to them.
“We are encouraging all the OFWs to register for the 2013 elections. We have a deadline on Oct. 31,” said Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Friday.
In a press conference, Commissioner Lucenito Tagle announced that as of Sept. 7, only 242,767 OFWs have registered as overseas absentee voters. Registration started in November last year.
The figure is on top of the more than 589,830 who already enlisted during the 2010 presidential elections.
The total number of OFW registrants is still below the initial target of one million, said Tagle, chair of the committee on overseas absentee voting.
But he said the Comelec and the DFA were processing between 1,000 and 2,000 OAV registrants daily and should this trend continue, they would be able to hit the one-million mark.
The election body still needs over 167,000 OFWs to enlist in the OAV to reach the target.
“I hope we can still meet the target also with the help of the NGOs,” he said in an interview with reporters later.
The Comelec chair said in the past, the OAV had “very little” effect on the results of the elections because of the insufficient number of registrants who actually voted. During the 2010 elections, only some 152,000 OFWs came out to vote out of the more than 500,000 OFWs who enlisted, Brillantes said.
Brillantes said if the registration went up to a million this year, and about half of them voted, the OAV could have an impact in determining the last three slots in the senatorial race.
He said the OAV could produce a higher voting turnout if Congress allows online voting.
“But right now we have a problem with the system. If Congress will pass the online voting, we will have a very good voting percentage [among the OFWs],” said the poll chief.
Several civil society groups also joined the government in its efforts to urge OFWs—either land or sea-based—to register and exercise their right to vote in the 2013 elections.
To push the OAV program, the Philippine Embassy in Berlin and the Consulate in Guam held daylong registration activities for OFWs. The Embassy in Germany even hosted a mobile registration drive in Hamburg on Aug. 25 to reach those that could not travel all the way to Berlin.
Among the NGOs that committed to help the government encourage OFWs to register for the upcoming balloting included the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch, the Migrant NGO Forum, Filipino Migrant Workers Group, Ople Policy Institute and Training Center, Center for Migrant Advocacy and the ICOFVR-Hongkong. With a report from Tarra Quismundo