OAV Internet Voting and OFW representation – Hoping for the best
GFN (Global Filipino Nation) a group of a coalition of major Filipino expatriate organizations who drafted the insertion of internet registration and voting said that the proposed amendment of Republic Act 9189 known as Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003 is now pending in the Senate. The bill contains the new version of allowing Internet voting for overseas Filipinos.
GFN office in Manila spokesperson Connie Gomez Valdes in an email said that “the bill was technically approved in the Committee on Constitutional Amendments headed by Sen. Chiz Escudero and is being passed around the tables of Senators Loren Legarda, Manuel “Mar” Roxas and Noynoy Aquino for signature. Once they have signed, it will be discussed in the Senate.”
GFN advocates empowering global community of unified Filipinos to proactively participate in their motherland’s mainstream activities particularly the right to vote. GFN is pursuing the passage of this amendment for the coming May 2010 elections. GFN led convenor, Asian Leaders 2004 awardee Mr. Vic Barrios and FilAm community leader Ernie Del Rosario are the two proponents who drafted the insertion of internet registration and voting in the proposed amendment.
Called GFN Lead Harvesters, they appeal to global Filipinos to help lobbying or pushing for the passage of the amendment before the May 2010 election. “Since we did not make it happen for the registration period, I appeal to everyone to please help us by writing letters to the senators and congressmen” said Connie Gomez Valdes.
”It would be good also to write to your consuls to make them aware that we are on top of the situation” she added.
Internet voting was successfully tested in Singapore last July 20 to August 8 which the Commission on Elections describes as “major step forward” towards the full modernization of Philippine elections. Being a remote electronic system, OAVs can cast their votes from their homes, workplaces and cyber cafes and voting stations to be set up inside the Philippine embassy.
Filipino community leader Rudy Nazruddin Dianalan based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and the main proponent of ”internet voting” during the tripartite meeting of Filipino community in Saudi Arabia said “internet voting is the most practical method to maximize the participation of OAVoters in elections.”
Most Overseas Filipinos are far away from diplomatic posts and going to the nearest one to vote entails too much expenses. Like here in Saudi Arabia. OFWs that are registered as absentee voters can only go either to the embassy in Riyadh or the consulate in Jeddah.
“Of more than one million OFWs in the kingdom, only about ten to fifteen percent are within reasonable distance to the two diplomatic posts here. Spread over a land area about five times larger than the Philippines, most OFWs do not have the means or the motivation to travel a long distance to cast their votes.” Mr. Dianalan added.
Rudy Nazruddin Dianalan is among called by OFWs in Saudi Arabia to represent the OFWs in the Senate. Filipino community is hoping that major Philippine political parties will include OFW stalwarts in their Senate slate.
“Assuming a crack at the senate, my advocacy shall center on the protection of OFWs from recruitment to worksite, the welfare of their families left back home, strengthening the ties of Overseas Filipinos to the Philippines and their reintegration, and enhancing a global Filipino nation.” He said.
Mr. Dianalan is the Chairman Emeritus of KASAPI, duly recognized federated and coalesced alliance of Filipino community organizations in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He was one of those who hardly fought that OFWs should be represented in Congress.
Among the names eyed to represent OFWs is Susan “Toots” Ople, the daughter of the late Sen. Blas F. Ople.
She served in the Senate in 1987 as media relations officer of Senator Ernesto Herrera. In 1989, the Citizens’ Drug Watch Foundation was created with Herrera as president and Susan as executive director. When the late Sen. Ople was designated Foreign Affairs Secretary, he brought Susan with him as chief of staff. It was during her stint at the DFA that Susan became deeply involved in human trafficking and OFW cases. In 2004, after Senator Ople died, Susan Ople was appointed Undersecretary of Labor and Employment.
Since the 1970s, the issue of Overseas Filipino Workers welfare has become one of the primary concerns of the government. However, in spite of efforts to provide protection, benefits, and programs to address their welfare, there are still many OFWs that have become victims of various circumstances and abuses from their foreign employers.
In 1992, the Party List Act of the Philippines was signed into law. However, the implementing rules of the Party List Act came very late and the then newly elected President, Fidel V. Ramos, appointed party-list representatives from several recognized sectors, like labor, business, cooperatives, teachers, OFWs, and others.
Ramos also appointed two OFW sectoral representatives in Congress, from the ranks of OFWs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
But many say the failure of OFW sectoral representation in Congress was because the representation itself did not enjoy the mandate of the OFW sector they are supposed to represent.
In 1995 up to now many OFW party lists tried their luck to participate in the last elections, not even one of them garnered the mandatory requirement in number of votes needed to be able to nominate a representative to Congress.
Now, that unity is too elusive to achieve, the OFWs will try the upper House of Philippine Congress, the Senate – hoping for the best.
By: Bong Amora
Related Post : The continuing saga towards OFW Empowerment