Absentee voter list-up a success: Comelec, DFA
Posted: PDI 8:40 PM (Manila Time) | Sept. 30, 2003
By Veronica Uy
Saudi Arabia’s First English Language Daily
DESPITE the low registration turnout, registration for absentee voters for the 2004 national elections was a success, according to the Commission on Elections and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Registration for absentee voters ended Tuesday.
The latest count of 302,360 overseas Filipinos who registered for the exercise was “relatively good” for the first year of implementation of the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) Act, Department of Foreign Affairs OAV secretariat vice chairperson Catherine Maceda said on Tuesday.
“Anything that allows the expansion of the democratic space is good for the country,” Maceda told INQ7.net. “This allows more Filipinos to participate in nation-building.”
The 302,360 registered absentee voters represented 37 percent of Comelec’s expected turnout of 800,000. “That’s good enough,” Maceda said, citing that other countries’ first-time implementation of absentee voting law had lesser registrants.
For his part, Comelec Commissioner Florentino Tuason Jr. likewise called the registration a “success.” “Even with the low turnout, it is not a failure,” he said. “This is the first time we’re implementing it and we had time and budgetary constraints.”
Tuason added that during the 61-day list-up, there were no reports of spurious or double registration.
Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Communities Heherson Alvarez further said that votes of overseas Filipinos were less prone to election fraud.
Alvarez also said a 300,000-strong vote could already constitute a decisive factor in the election of the country’s public officials.
However, OFW organizations indicated that the low turnout was inherent in the law. At most 800,000 registrants could be accommodated due to the law’s required personal visits to Philippine consular offices and embassies, they said. The Center for Migrant Advocacy originally lobbied for registration and voting by mail, which would have made it easier and more convenient for the 1.7 million potential voters scattered all over the world to register and vote.
Meanwhile, Kakampi-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spokesperson Bong Amora blamed the low turnout to “a general cynicism of the Philippine political process.”
“We can’t deny that current electoral system in the Philippines is not one that fosters voter participation, but instead often discourages voting altogether,” Amora said. “For many OFWs, the realization that their vote is likely to have little impact on the outcome of elections, not surprisingly, others don’t want to be involved in the electoral process altogether.”
However, Amora said he believes it is possible for the OFW vote to make a significant difference in the coming election.
The Overseas Absentee Voting Act was signed into law last February 13. However, preparations for the implementation of law, including the all-important registration, did not start right away because the funding for the exercise was not released until June.