House approves the Overseas Voting Act of 2012

THE House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill amending Republic Act 9189 otherwise known as the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003 to allow more overseas Filipinos worldwide to exercise their right to vote in Philippine elections.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. (Lone District, Dasmariñas City), Chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, said the bill will make registration for overseas voting more accessible to Filipinos worldwide by way of setting up field and mobile registration centers.

Barzaga said overseas Filipino workers may file their application personally at any post or at designated registration centers in the Philippines approved by the COMELEC and shall submit themselves for live capture of their biometrics.

Rep. Al Francis Bichara (2nd District, Albay), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, also endorsed the approval of the bill.

Rep. Erico Aumentado (2nd District, Bohol), author of House Bill 3966, said the measure provides for the expansion of the coverage of RA9189 by allowing Filipino overseas voters to vote not only for the presidential and midterm election, but also in all national referenda and plebiscites.

Aumentado said records at the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) shows that in the previous election, there were at least 3.6 million qualified voters abroad.  “Out of this figure, 589,830 were registered voters while only 153,323 actually voted, broken down as follows: 39,564 voted by mail, 64,743 voted manually or in person and 49,016 voted through automation,” Aumentado said.

“The present law provides for the voting by mail to only three countries.  This limitation effectively disenfranchises many OFWs abroad,” Aumentado said.

Rep. Walden Bello (Party-list, Akbayan), another author of the bill, said the measure allows overseas Filipinos with dual citizenship to vote without renouncing their other allegiances and immigrants/ permanent residents need not execute affidavits declaring that they shall resume actual, physical permanent residence in the Philippines not later than 3 years from approval of their applications for registration under RA 9189.

“The measure shall be more effective, far reaching and voter friendly to overseas Filipinos,” Bello said.

Under the bill, pre-departure registration shall be conducted in accredited government agencies or facilities to be determined by the Comelec.

The measure also expands the three modes of voting, personal voting, voting by mail and by any other means as may be allowed under Section 52(1) of Batas Pambansa 881 as amended or the Omnibus Election Code.

The bill mandates the Comelec to explore and adopt more efficient, reliable and secure modes or system, paper-based or electronic-based technology or other latest technology available for onsite and remote registration and elections.


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