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DFA, envoys urge OFWs to vote

/ 12:49 AM April 20, 2016

THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has stepped up its drive to convince overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to vote.

The country’s ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, Belgium and Switzerland, among others, posted messages and spoke at gatherings to urge Filipinos in their jurisdiction to cast their ballots for the 2016 national elections.

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“It is time to let your voices be heard no matter how far, to have a say in the governance of your country,” Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein Joselito A. Jimeno told the Filipino community in his area, urging them to go to the Embassy to vote.

DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, who heads the Overseas Voting Secretariat said that as of April 19, the overseas voter turnout remained low at 98,963 or 7.19 percent of the total 1.37 million registered voters.

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He told ambassadors to explain the low turnout and to take a more proactive stance in getting overseas Filipinos to vote.

Overseas voting began on April 9 and will continue up to May 9—Election Day in the Philippines.

Figures from the DFA showed the turnout in the Americas remained the lowest at .84 percent or 2,322 out of the 275,729 registered voters.

Second lowest was Europe with 10,404 ballots cast or 6.43 percent of the total 161,718 registered voters.

Filipinos in Middle East and Africa appeared the most enthusiastic with 47,698 votes cast or 8.03 percent of 593,772 registered voters.

But in terms of percentage, Asia-Pacific has the  highest voter turnout with 38,466 who voted in the last ten days or 11.15 percent of the registered voters.

Undersecretary Seguis said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Overseas Voting office is currently addressing the issue of missing names in the certified voters list.

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“They (Comelec) are tracing where the fault lies,” undersecretary Seguis told the Inquirer.

The Philippine Embassy in Brussels conducted field voting for Filipino seafarers arriving at the international port of Antwerp.

The first voter was 31-year-old messman Julius Bingil of the Greek-owned MT Nedas. It was his second time to participate in an overseas elections.

Capt. Felimon M. Maranan Jr., shipmaster of the Panamanian MV Santa Helena said many seafarers were unable to vote because they failed to register as overseas voters. This usually happens when they are at sea, he added.

Fr. Jorgedy Bago, Chaplain of Seafarers in Antwerp assisted the Overseas Voting team by alerting them of incoming vessels with Filipino crew members.

“It’s a pity that we can only find one or two registered voters among several crew members,” the chaplain said but agreed that it was worth the effort to ensure that every registered voter, including seafarers, get to exercise their right to vote.

A total of 49,339 registered seafarers are qualified for the overseas voting in 2016 national elections.

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TAGS: Elections 2016, Features, Global Nation, Overseas Filipino workers, Rafael Seguis
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