Manila: Some 1.3 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who registered as voters have one month, from April 9 to May 9, to elect their new president who will succeed President Benigno Aquino at the end of his term in June, senior officials said.
“We count on your invaluable support to make our political exercise more meaningful, credible, and effective by ensuring the widest participation of Filipinos overseas voters,” said Rafael Sequis, chair of the department of foreign affairs (DFA) Overseas’ Voting Secretariat. In comparison, some 54 million Philippine-based registered Filipino voters will vote only for one day on May 9.
“Starting April 9, OFWs abroad will have the opportunity to choose for a month leaders who will manage their (OFWs) invaluable economic contribution to the country and our people,” said Seguis, adding a small 1.3 million of the country’s 10 million OFWs registered as voters up to the end of registration period on October 31, 2015.
Polling places for OFWs are available, in hard copy, at Philippine Consulate offices, and online, at the websites of Philippine embassies, DFA and the Commission on Elections (Comelec), said Seguis, adding the three websites have information on candidates for president, vice-president, senators and congressmen (who will fill up 300 seats in Congress), and local government units with 18,000 posts.
Registered OFW voters could vote at Philippine embassies; two more “mobile voting centres” in places with high concentration of Filipinos; and at port-based voting centres for Filipino seamen on board ships that are docked in Hong Kong, Japan, and Norway, said Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim.
“The Comelec, foreign affairs and labour departments have jointly established these creative polling places so all registered OFW voters could exercise their basic political right wherever they are in the world,” said Lim, adding the Philippine government has encouraged foreign employers to give OFWs a day off to vote. He did not give details.
Comelec is aiming for a high OFW voters’ turnout during the one-month period of voting, said Lim.
Of the 700,000 registered OFW voters in 2013, only 118,000 went out to vote, records showed, complained Lim, adding, “It’s high time that OFWs make known their stand on certain issues and show that they are a force to be reckoned with.”
Last year, outbound OFWs were encouraged to report their whereabouts from April 9 to May 9 at mall-based passport centres; at the main offices of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA); and at consular office of the foreign affairs department in Manila’s suburban Paranaque; Pampanga’s San Fernando (in central Luzon) and southern Philippines’ Davao City.
Earlier, OFWs complained that employers would not give them a leave of absence for one day to vote, and did not want to risk losing their jobs. At the same time, Filipino seamen said they could not vote because polling places were always land-based.