MANILA, Philippines—They spent so much but showed very little for it.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) are being asked to explain where the P148.4 million they allegedly spent for the overseas absentee voting went with only 15 percent of voters abroad actually casting their ballots in the May 13 elections.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, on Thursday said he would file the appropriate resolution for a review of the Overseas Absentee Voting Act (OAV) when the 16th Congress convenes in July.
Drilon said in the weekly Senate news forum the turnout among the 737,759 registered Filipino voters abroad was “dismal to say the least.”
“Our estimate is that we spend P1,300 per capita for each vote cast by our overseas Filipinos. I am getting initial reports about the inefficiencies particularly in the addresses indicated in the voters’ list and therefore the voting by mail had not been effective and had resulted in just about 15 percent of the registered voters casting their ballots on Election Day,” he said.
Drilon, who shepherded the P2.006-trillion 2013 national budget in the Senate, said P105.038 million was allocated to the Comelec and P43.41 million to the DFA for the OAV exercise.
Aside from the problematic conduct of the OAV implementation, Drilon said there were also reports of some Filipinos no longer interested in elections.
“We must rekindle the spirit of our Filipinos overseas to participate in the electoral process in our country,” Drilon said.
“[Many] of the circumstances add up to the dismal performance of our OAV system so we will sit down and review with the Comelec and the DFA why we have not succeeded in generating interest or generating higher voting percentage on our overseas compatriots,” he added.
Drilon recalled that he specifically told DFA officials to increase the participation of Filipinos in the OAV this year amid the tightening fiscal position.
“With only 113,209 overseas Filipinos voting, the cost of each absentee vote is now P1,310 per vote. This is outrageous. I wonder how the Comelec and the DFA can justify these numbers,” Drilon said earlier.
Drilon said he was in favor of Internet voting in an attempt to increase the turnout in the next elections. “I’m open to suggestions. I just want assurances that the sanctity of the ballot will not be compromised by such systems,” he said.