Overseas voters to increase by 10-M on enactment of absentee voting

Senator Aquilino Koko” Pimentel III on Wednesday said that once the amended Overseas Absentee Voting Act enacted into law, the  Commission on Election’s target of having one million foreign based registrants would be surpassed to 10 million voters.

“I am optimistic that ten times a million (or 10 million) OAV votes may be possible in 2016 and beyond with the enactment of Senate Bill 3312,” said Pimentel in his sponsorship speech of the measure.

Both versions of Amended OAV Act by the Senate and the House of Representatives have mandated the Comelec to put in place a system that would allow online registration and voting for all of the estimated 13 million overseas Filipinos.

“In 2016, when Filipinos come together as one nation to decide on the next administration, one of our biggest legacies to voters around the world is an OAV law that offers flexibility in terms of new technologies,” said Pimentel.

The Amended OAV Act also dropped Section 5d of the original law which had stopped many Filipino immigrants and permanent residents in the US and Canada from voting in past Philippine national elections since the passage of the OAV Act in 2003.

The provision that was removed required immigrants and permanent residents to execute an affidavit stating that they shall come back to the Philippines within three years from approval of their registration as Philippine voters.

Pimentel characterized the required affidavit “as a serious obstacle to our citizens’ right to vote” and a “Sword of Damocles hovering over the heads” of Filipino immigrants.

Pimentel chairs the Senate Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation Committee which approved the bill under Committee Report No. 446 following several public hearings attended by all stakeholders, including OFWs and Filipino immigrants.

He added that the Amended OAV also removes documentary requirements “that keep our citizens at arm’s length from the ballot box, and one that seeks to create a permanent mechanism to promote a more efficient and effective electoral process for Filipinos overseas.”

Pimentel said that as the 13 million Filipinos remit around $20 billion each year, it is only proper that they are empowered to help select national leaders from the president to the senators.

“In this proposed measure, we have deleted that entire controversial provision to give our Filipino brothers and sisters abroad the right of suffrage without any preconditions,” said Pimentel.

“They can keep cooking and eating adobo while abroad, and voting for their national candidates in the Philippines, without having the Commission on Elections and even the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) looking over their shoulders.”

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