Statement

OAV Registration Low Turn Out Due to Indifference of Philippine Government

The Department of Foreign Affairs and the COMELEC are deluding themselves by targeting 1 million registrants for the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) for the 2010 elections. There is a very limited budget allocated for the exercise to achieve this goal and migrant workers worldwide must press the government to allot more funding to ensure their right to suffrage.

There are fewer actual numbers of Data Capturing Machines (DCM) in working condition that is used for the registration process and a very limited budget compared in the last election period.

Let us take the situation in 4 posts. As of now, there is only 1 DCM in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and supposedly the COMELEC has sent six more there. However, 3 of these have not yet been released by KSA customs officials while another 3 are still on its way. These would be sent to the Embassy in Riyadh and the POLO office in the Eastern region.

In Taiwan, only 3 DCM’s are in workable condition in Taipei, 2 in Kaohsiung from the previous 3, 1 in Taichung and no funding has been sent by the COMELEC. While in Hong Kong, only 33 DCM’s out of the original 54 are in working condition and a paltry US$1276 have been sent by the electoral body. Only one DCM is operating in Macau. It takes 10 minutes for each DCM machine to process 1 registrant.

Philippine Consulate officials also informed migrant community leaders in Hong Kong that there is no clear budget from the COMELEC. Aside from this the COMELEC has also disapproved funding for additional personnel for the OAV unlike during the 2004 elections. Thus in actual operations no one mans the registration process during the days off of consulate personnel.

At present, only 2000 have registered in Riyadh which has hundreds of thousands of OFWs. While the COMELEC reported that as of May 8 this year 69,240 have registered for the OAV worldwide. But the actual number of those registered overseas is only 53,000 as the rest registered at the NAIA and POEA.

COMELEC spokesperson James Jimenez was quoted yesterday as saying that the government is still confident to meet its target of 1 million registrants by the end of August. He is silent though on the low number of working DCM’s and the almost non-existent budget for the exercise.

Is this not a way to disenfranchise the migrants vote given that the government’s reputation among OFW’s is not so good given their criminal neglect in handling cases of those who are in distress? They are afraid that the majority of overseas Filipinos will shun the administration’s candidates in the 2010 elections.

It is up to the overseas Filipinos themselves to assert their right to vote and prompt and proper services when they are in distress as they cannot expect the present government to provide these to them.