Friday, November 28, 2008

Shortened OAV registration will disenfranchise millions

Press Release
28 November 2008

For reference:
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator,
Migrante Sectoral Party Vice-Chairperson
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Shortened OAV registration will disenfranchise millions of OFWs – Migrante-ME

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers organizations in the Middle East today said the postponement of the Overseas Absentee Voters (OAV) registration for OFWs originally scheduled on December 2008 that was re-scheduled on February 2009 to end still on August 2009 will disenfranchise many OFWs.

"The postponement of the OAV registration that originally scheduled to start next month by the Commissions on Elections is without a valid reason, thus to shorten its duration from nine (9) months to seven (7) months is unreasonable and unjust and it may be unconstitutional as it will disenfranchise many OFW voters," said Saudi-based OFW and Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

On November 25, 2008 the Commission on Elections en banc passed a resolution on moving the starting date of the OAV registration two months later but ending on the same original date. The COMELEC reasoned that it is due to the late delivery of data capturing machines to some Philippine posts abroad.

Monterona said that the failure by the COMELEC to deliver the data capturing machine on time in different posts abroad should not be made an escape by the electoral body.

"COMELEC should not pass on the consequences of its own failure to OFWs such as the non-delivery of data capturing machines on time in different posts which will lead to the disenfranchisement of OFW-voters," Monterona added.

Monterona said that based on previous OAV registrations, the 9-months duration is not enough for our fellow OFWs to register themselves.

In Saudi Arabia, for instance, the almost 1.2-M OFWs are scattered in different distant locations.

"Previous OAV registrations where only held in Riyadh where the Philippine Embassy is located, and in Jeddah where the Philippine Consulate General office is stationed. But in fact, many OFWs are also concentrated in the Eastern part of Saudi Arabia like Dammam and Al Khobar. Many OFWs are also working in Jubail and Tabuk, northern part of Saudi Arabia," Monterona added.

Monterona said that previous OAV registrations during past elections when the OAV has first implemented, Migrante, OFWs and their families have called on the COMELEC to set up mobile or satellite registration areas where there are large concentrations of OFWs so that they could easily register. "But this demand from OFWs has not been heeded by the COMELEC," he continued.

"Setting-up of mobile or satellite registration centers should be coupled by a massive information dissemination campaign by concerned Philippine posts abroad. Otherwise, the essence of having an absentee voting will be defeated," Monterona added.

Monterona said the setting up of mobile or satellite registration centers and massive information dissemination on OAV registration could easily be funded by the government considering the huge earning that goes to the government from billions of OFWs remittances yearly.

Migrante-ME said if the Arroyo administration could afford to distribute funds for its allies in Congress and spent millions for the campaign of its self-engineered Cha-cha, for sure it could also afford to provide budget for the setting up of mobile or satellite OAV registration centers and stage a massive information dissemination campaign about the OAV registration and voters' education campaign among OFWs abroad.

"Migrante, OFWs and their families do not want to think that the COMELEC has intentionally shortened the OAV registration so that many would-be OFW-voters will be disenfranchised. The millions of OFWs and their families' votes are considered a swing vote that could get a seat for Senatorial candidate or even make one a President," Monterona added.

Migrante chapters in the Middle East are in consultation now and will be preparing to send a letter to the COMELEC to formally register its opposition, and thereby requesting the electoral body to re-consider its Nov.25 resolution.

"We will strongly state that the extension of OAV registration duration to be made exactly 1 year, not just 9 months," Monterona ended. # # #

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