Global Networking

Widespread Philippine indifference towards overseas Filipinos


GFDC delegates

MANILA – Delegates attending the 2nd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora held in Makati on Feb. 25-27 expressed great alarm at the widespread indifference of many Filipinos in the Philippines towards overseas Filipinos and a general ignorance of their conditions. How is it possible that just when the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) released figures showing record remittances by overseas Filipinos, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced the delisting of 238,455 overseas Filipino voters?

While the Comelec’s December 14, 2012 resolution disenfranchising more than a quarter of all eligible overseas Filipino voters drew howls of protest from overseas Filipinos, the issue barely registered a ripple in the Philippine press.

To be fair, not all local commentators exhibited this general indifference and ignorance. Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban was unabashed in his appreciation of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

“Our OFWs toil diligently in foreign shores, braving loneliness, illness, family separation and extreme weather. In the process, they collectively remitted last year a total of $21.4 billion, up 6.3 percent from the $20.1 billion sent in 2011. They are the single biggest source of foreign currency for our country. Their relatives here used these remittances to buy homes, appliances, motor vehicles, food items, clothing and toys, thereby keeping our vibrant economy the envy of the world.”

But sadly, the Comelec commissioners proved to be the rule more than the exception in terms of its indifference to the aspirations of the estimated 12-15 million Filipinos who live and work outside the Philippines.

Presidential disappointment

Even Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III proved to be a disappointment when he declined to personally address the delegates at the Global Summit that was sponsored by his Commission of Filipinos Overseas (CFO). Greg Macabenta, former national chair of the National Federation of Filipino Associations in America (NaFFAA) lamented his absence in his column: “any indication of the importance of the conference, in the eyes of the President of the Philippines, may be gleaned from the fact that he has only sent a videotaped message to the delegates. One senses that this “Gathering of Heroes” is not important enough to merit his personal presence. Aquino also sent a recorded message for the first conference.”

Comelec en banc session

That was not the only disappointment. After the Philippine Congress finally approved the amended Overseas Voting Act (OVA) in the first week of February and sent the bill to Pres. Aquino for his signature, overseas Filipino convenors of the Summit requested Pres. Aquino to sign the OVA into law either at the Global Summit or during the week of the Summit to allow delegates to witness the signing of the bill that they had lobbied for since the greatly flawed Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) law was enacted in 2003.

The OVA law carried an odious provision requiring overseas Filipinos who register to vote to sign an affidavit of intent to return back to the Philippines within three years or face incarceration of up to a year in jail. This provision discouraged overseas Filipinos – most of whom planned to live and work abroad for more than three years – from registering to vote.

The resulting low registration turnout vindicated the self-fulfilling prophecy of the skeptics who predicted that overseas Filipinos were not interested in participating in Philippine politics. Despite this extreme disincentive, however, more than 350,000 overseas Filipinos registered to vote in the 2004 elections. But a lesser number registered for the 2007 and 2010 elections and only about 300,000 registered for the May 2013 elections bringing the total to less than 900,000 overseas vote

New overseas voting act

The approval of the new voting act with the removal of this voter-deterring provision was a source of great relief for advocates of suffrage for overseas Filipinos who wanted to be present when the president signs the new bill into law. But Malacañang Palace sent word that Pres. Aquino could not accommodate the request for them to attend the signing ceremony because he was too busy that week, perhaps campaigning for his Team PNoy senate slate. Did he not understand that a photo-op of him signing the OAV bill in front of overseas Pinoys would draw support for his slate from overseas Pinoys, like the 65% of them who voted for him in the May 2010 presidential elections?

Perhaps Pres. Aquino should talk to one of his own Team PNoy senate candidates, Sen. Koko Pimentel, who announced in a press conference last month that he expects six million overseas voters to cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election following enactment of the Overseas Voting Act, which he sponsored in the Senate.

Pimentel said that the Senate’s approval of the bill on February 5 “was a red-letter day for the over 13 million overseas Filipinos…Maybe not in this coming election in May, but once the OVA amendments take effect, overseas Filipinos may soon be able to register and vote using mail, whether postal or electronic, fax, and other secure online systems.”

Pimentel added: “In 2016, when Filipinos come together as one nation to decide on the next administration, one of our biggest legacies to voters around the world is an OVA law that offers flexibility in terms of new technologies,” Pimentel said. Under the amended Overseas Voting Act, “the participation of overseas Filipinos in the election of national officials would be as easy as their turning on their computers and connecting to the Internet to register or to vote.”


Former Filipinos?

Global Summit delegates trooped to the Philippine Senate building on Feb. 28 to personally thank Sen. Pimentel and Sen. Loren Legarda for their support of the OVA bill. During a roundtable discussion about issues of concern to overseas Filipinos, Sen. Legarda encouraged “former Filipinos” to invest in the Philippines. At that point, I said “Senator, there is no such thing as a “former Filipino”. You can be a former Philippine citizen but never a “former Filipino”. Once a Filipino, always a Filipino.” Sen. Legarda readily agreed.

While Sen. Legarda and Sen. Pimentel were meeting with the Summit delegates, another Team PNoy senate candidate, Cynthia Villar, was busy putting her foot in her mouth. When she was interviewed on TV by host Wennie Monsod, she was asked why she intervened in favor of nursing school diploma mills in 2005. Villar replied that she did so because she believes there is no need for Philippine nurses to graduate with Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees since they only want to become “room nurses” or caretakers anyway.

The social networks of global Filipinos exploded with fury. Here is one comment, among thousands that were posted: “Telling your precious Pinay nurses that they don’t even need to have a BSN because they only want to work abroad as a room nurse and that they don’t really need to be good because they are only there to be a caretaker for others is utterly degrading and demeaning. And by the way, there’s no such thing as a “room nurse”. Operating room nurse, yes. Emergency room nurse, yes. But a room nurse? Seriously?”

Villar should not underestimate the gravity of her gaffe and the influence of outraged Philippine nurses working abroad who remit billions of dollars of their salaries to their families in the Philippines. One word from them to their relatives and Villar’s hopes to succeed her husband in the Philippine senate will be dashed.

Dismal alternatives

Unpalatable as some of Aquino’s Senate candidates may be, the alternatives offered by the opposition UNA slate are even more dismal. One UNA candidate, Nancy Binay, has only held one job in 39 years – being the personal assistant of her father, Vice-President Jojo Binay. Another UNA candidate, Jack Enrile, son of Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, was questioned by Karen Davila on TV about his involvement in killing three people (his bodyguards were “over eager” in the first two and the third, movie actor Alfie Anido, committed suicide, he claims). And another candidate, JV Ejercito, son of convicted plunderer, former Pres. Joseph Estrada, is running a very public feud with his half-brother, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. He said he is pro-RH but voted anti-RH to please his mother.

Despite the absence of inspiring candidates to vote for, representatives of the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC) still sought to get the Comelec to reconsider its decision to disenfranchise 238,455 overseas voters.

At a scheduled meeting at the Comelec headquarters in Manila on March 1, GFDC delegates from the United Kingdom (Gene Alcantara) and Norway (Nitnit Hogelshom) explained the difficulties that overseas Filipinos encounter in having to travel all the way to the nearest Philippine consular office just to register and then to vote. Another explained that 250,000 Filipinos serving in maritime vessels around the world find it next to impossible to vote in the consulates they originally registered in.

GFDC spokesman Ted Laguatan pointed out that the provision of the law Comelec relied on to delist the overseas voters was simply discretionary, not mandatory, as they may have believed. Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. acknowledged that perhaps the Comelec may have been too hasty in its interpretation of the 2003 OAV law.

Overseas voters re-enfranchised

On March 5, the Comelec reconsidered its decision and voted unanimously to reinstate the 238,455 overseas Filipino voters it had ordered delisted in December.

It was a major victory for the GFDC which was formed only in September of 2011 and which last year organized a European Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora attended by over 250 delegates from 29 European counties. The GFDC plans to hold a Summit of Filipinos in the Middle East and Africa in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on Oct. 15-18, 2014. Singapore is the projected site of the Diaspora Summit of Filipinos in Asia.set for 2016. Meanwhile, in February of 2015, the 3rd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora will return to Manila.

Greg Macabenta reported in his Business World column that “the new organization has lined up a set of goals and programs that should have considerable impact on the country down the road. When that happens, perhaps the President of the Philippines will consider it fit to honor Global Filipinos with his personal presence.”


(Send comments to or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800).

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • FreemindOnline

    If you are a corrupt official or a government that wants to make sure of control. Giving the power to vote for the Philippine overseas workers is counter productive. Majority and very much almost 3/4 of Filipinos who goes abroad to escape poverty are opened to the truth that their are other options on how the Philippines should be managed.

    Now imagine if Filipinos started to think, act, and insist on their rights as a citizen because of available information that is not manipulated and/or controlled by a few influential people.

  • resortman

    This OFW representation as party list is all but a sham, this is a paid ad obviously..i have been an OFW since 10 years, i know OFW’s dont vote..most of them dont really care about politics in the political shenanigans in their homeland…Most, if not all knows that they will just be used by opurtunistic political animals in the Philippines…Its the plain truth…ask around the middle esat for example and know the percentage of those who voted..almost none!! Bagkus, ginagamit lang ang overseas voting schemes para sa pandaraya na gawain ng mga opisyal ng embahada..yan ang totoo..!! Diaspora due to the inefficiency of government, dadagdagan nyo pa!!

    • Rodel Rodis

      Resortman, The GFDC is not a party-list and has no intentions of applying to be a party-list. While there is always a risk that if overseas Filipinos (both OFWs and non-OFWs) become a sizeable voting block, that we will be “used by opurtunistic political animals in the Philippines”, that is a risk we have to take.

      The nature of the Philippine democratic political system is that the government responds and caters to the needs and demands of those who vote. The government takes care of the demands and needs of the INK because their members vote. The government doesn’t take care of the demands and needs of OFWs because OFWs don’t vote (“almost none” you say).

      Perhaps just remaining cynical about the need to increase and improve overseas voting will result in improving the welfare of OFWs. Don’t hold your breath.

    • gisingpinas

      I like your words ” opurtunistic political animals”

    • 444mangyan888

      Hindi madali ang ibigay ang oras mo para mag register la-ang pra maging abentee voter lalo dito sa Mideast. Most of those who went out of their way are those with political leanings, though not all. We have sounded that before that it does need rocket science to make us, OFWs, participate in election. SAy, allow us to register online by using information that can be easily captured by computers.This is an easy programming task actually, but if passport issuance takes that long in the DFA how much more will it be that problematic to engage in such project ..kaya. There will be problems, surely, but starting to lay down plans and looking into the project preliminaries will certainly identify glitches.
      Sus passport renewal lang engot na…wala namang nabagong requriement, it is simply in the systems. Wala naman kaseng engineer atang kasama nagisip dun eh.

  • albert13

    yes, there is a widespread ofw indifference to gfdc. it is a just a clique of elitest “former filipinos” (i agree with sen loren legarda as such as this is really the view of ofws and filipinos living in the philippines) who have abandoned their filipino citizenship yet want to eat their cakes too. look at their pictures, yes they are overseas filipinos but hindi sila typical na ofws.

    • Rodel Rodis

      Just exactly what “cake” do overseas Filipinos get to eat when they regain their Philippine citizenship? The right to vote? The right to pay Philippine taxes?

      Have you ever met a former Korean, a former Japanese, a former Samoan, a former Chinese? What are they now?

      • 444mangyan888

        The “cake” is simply being branded as someone who is typically what generally pinoys considered as true-blue OFWs..!! those workers (skilled, prof, etc) who go back to pinas after a year or 2 depending on what is stipulated in their contract. Not those who have gained other citizenship and yet want to ride the bandwagon that pictures OFWs as the modern day heroes…. because it is cool..!!!

      • Rodel Rodis

        So that’s the “cake”. Being branded a “modern day hero” and 10 pesos will get you a ride from Rizal Avenue to Divisoria. So cool.

    • albert13

      hey rodel, i will share with you s story right from the mouth of a Filipino US citizen. I met this Filipino American Consultant in Cambodia and I introduced him to my other colleagues as a Filipino. He corrected me calling him a Filipino in front of my colleagues. He said with emphasis “FORMERLY” a Filipino. This is a statement direct from the horse mouth which validates the “statement” of Senator Legarda. I as so embaraased with this former “Flipino” na ikinahihiya ang kanyang pagiging Pinoy.

      • Rodel Rodis

        What that “horse” clearly meant was that he was formerly a Philippine citizen. A lot of uninformed folks confuse one’s nationality or race (Chinese, Korean, Filipino) with one’s citizenship (South Korean, Philippine, Taiwanese). People who should know better shouldn’t perpetuate nonsense.

      • 444mangyan888

        What is so nonsense in what albert13 heard..?? Yung kabayo obviously meant what he said: that he is a former Filipino..!!! Whatever it is taht he had in mind when he corrected albert13, only he can say, but from the ear of any sensible listener, it is as clear as saying : ” i wish my skin were not colored brown”..!!


        Get your facts straight, Filipinos are multiracial, therefore, not all are brown.

      • CommonSens6

        Would you rather be called Caucasian? Why are you so offended of being labeled “brown” or were you the horse who claimed to be a “former Filipino” ? Just kidding!

      • Noel

        Believe me, there are many coconuts in the US.

      • Noel

        He must be another Coconut.

      • CommonSens6

        Now that’s funny!

      • Noel

        Take note that whenever a Filipino meets another Filipino, the first question asked if he recognizes a fellow Filipino is “Where are you from? From what part of Phl you come from?” Such question is being asked as if being a Filipino is not enough. When one replies he’s from Ilocos, Pampanga or Cebu and the one asking happens to come from the same region, an instant relationship begins. Otherwise, some give a lukewarm treatment to a Filipino who comes from a place that the person asking dislikes. We Filipinos keep calling foreigners “Racists” but it’s the Filipinos who are racist against fellow Filipinos.

  • Cadiz

    Well at least our government is not indifferent to us… they continue to milk us for every peso they can. We are ‘free money’ as far as the Philippines government is concerned. They claim all of these charges and fees are to ‘protect’ us but in reality they are only to line the pockets of government officials with little benefit to those of us paying.

  • entropion

    I agree, once a Filipino always a Filipino. There are a lot of our countrymen, however, who became naturalized citizens of foreign countries who come back for a visit and act as if they are not Filipinos anymore and look down on their countrymen as if they were not born here. Ang yayabang nila akala mo hindi mga Filipino in the first place.

  • gisingpinas

    Those ofw’s who can vote are the one living near the embassies or consulate. How about those living in remote and far distance? The seamen? Organizations are using ofw as front to make money or to be well known to become a partylist.

  • gisingpinas

    OFW ‘s are scattered in every major and minor cities all over saudi arabia. Comelec should provide a mobile precints to reach these ofw’s and cast there votes.

  • 444mangyan888

    who are the OFWs you are talking about..? Here in Saudi, we don’t see how to connect with what you have for a purpose…?? And you are antagonistic even with the president who seem, for you, to have not given you a gesture of recognition.. BAka naman gusto ninyo lang maging bida o baka me mga balak kayung maging pulitiko din..!! sus

  • Noel

    This senatoriable Cynthia Villar must be dumped.

  • Cabesang_Tales

    Put it this way, if you are working for a big company and the employees are unionized would you rather not join and not be represented?

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos