Commentary: OFW votes counted in May elections
By Henry S. Lagasca
SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union (17 April) -- Overseas absentee voters (OAV) worldwide now number over 504,000 represents a potent force in national elections since the Absentee Voting Act was passed to enable overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to exercise their right of suffrage.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said that it is important that they have the right to vote and it is really up to them to exercise it.
Because of their huge number, absentee voters could spell the difference between winning and losing in the hotly contested Senate race.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that there are 88 diplomatic posts abroad that are conducting the OAV. Reports of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), however, showed that as of April 15, only 736 Filipinos overseas had cast their votes.
The low turnout, especially those working in America was due to the stringent requirement to put in writing the “intention to come back to the Philippines and live here permanently.”
First introduced in the 2004 elections, the absentee voting law provides that registered absentee voters can cast their ballot from April 14 to May 14 in Philippine embassies and consulates abroad. The law also provides that Filipinos working abroad can cast their vote 30 days before the national elections.
Except for dual citizens, what is difficult for Filipinos who have become immigrants or permanent residents of a foreign country are disqualified from casting votes in a Philippine election unless they execute an affidavit stating their intention to resume actual physical permanent residency in the country within three years after their application for absentee voting has been approved.
Saudi Arabia has the biggest number of registered absentee voters with 148,000 and next is Hongkong with 96,505 at last count, according to the Comelec. (PIA Region 1) [top]