Comelec execs to campaign abroad for absentee voting
MANILA, Philippines—Members of the Commission on Elections will embark on a “tour” of countries with many Filipinos to convince them to register as overseas absentee voters for the 2013 mid-term polls.
Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr., in an interview, said he and other commissioners will be in separate missions in the United States, Europe, Middle East and Southeast Asia to consult with Filipinos on how to make overseas absentee voting easier and more accessible.
Brillantes and Commissioner Armando Velasco attended a multisectoral forum at the Comelec office in Manila on Thursday. Representatives of government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and various migrant groups attended the event.
“Our target is one million registered overseas absentee voters for 2013. We have eight million Filipinos abroad but we only have 589,000 registered in 2010,” Velasco, who chairs the Comelec committee on OAV, said in a press conference.
Velasco said the 589,000 will decrease further because about 238,000 of them did not vote in two consecutive elections and would have to be delisted from the registry of voters. Included in the 589,000 were about 224,000 new voters who registered in 2009.
The number of overseas absentee voters currently stands at 347,453.
One of the most pressing issues identified during the forum was the scrapping of the affidavit of intent to return, which Filipino voters abroad must accomplish. The affidavit requires the overseas voter to return to the Philippines within three years; otherwise he will be jailed up to a year and disenfranchised.
Aside from the fear of being penalized, many Filipinos abroad, particularly in the United States, also do not want to be forced to return to the Philippines because it would upset their applications for permanent residency or immigrant status.
The scrapping of the affidavit, however, would entail the revision of the Republic Act No. 9189 or the OAV Act of 2003. Velasco said the amendment should be ideally passed by congress at least six months before the 2013 elections so that Comelec can have an adequate time for an information drive to encourage more registrants.
Other reforms discussed at the forum included Internet voting and registration for overseas voters, the creation of a permanent OAV department for Comelec, and allowing overseas voters to participate in national referendums and plebiscites.
Velasco said the Comelec was open to Internet-based registration so that registrants do not have to journey to another country just to personally register in a Philippine diplomatic post.
Internet voting would also benefit seafarers who are at sea during Election Day, according to the migrant groups.
The registration for new absentee voters begins Oct. 31 and ends the same date next year.
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