REPORTS of the disenfranchisement of 1.8 million registered overseas absentee voters (OAVs) were denounced by overseas workers group Migrante International on Monday, April 30 as it accused the Philippine government of negligence.
According to Migrante, many Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) would not be able to vote in the midterm polls due to the failure of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Foreign Affairs to ensure them that they would receive their mailed ballots on time.
The option to vote by mail is critical to thousands of OAVs, the group pointed out, since they lack access to resources and time to travel to nearest consulates or voting centers.
Migrante further said that Comelec failed to ensure voters they would get all the necessary information and materials to prepare them for the elections even prior to holding the OAV, as well as placing he burden on OFWs to pay the cost of the return postage.
“This is a clear violation of Republic Act 9189, which guarantees that overseas absentee voters will not have to shoulder any costs related to the process of voting,” Migrante said.
“Comelec’s admission of lack of financial resources to pay for postage stamps due to the delay in the passage of the national budget is unacceptable,” the group added.
Migrante claimed that protecting the OFWs’ constitutional right to vote is apparently not a priority of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
The group promised to continue its monitoring and documenting of reports about the disenfranchisement and discrepancies in the OAV process.
Meanwhile, members of the security forces and the media participated in the absentee voting for the May 13 midterm elections.
3,397 officers and men were led by Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega in casting their votes ahead of the May 13 elections.
Sixty policemen and four local media practitioners in Pangasinan took part in the absentee voting on Monday, as well.
In Nueva Ecija, at least 1,000 policemen took part in the absentee voting.
Under the Republic Act 7166 and Executive Order No. 157, absentee voting allows any person who, by reason of public functions and duties such as those in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police, is not in the place of registration on election day may vote in the place where assigned provided that absentee voter is duly registered.