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FilAms ask: Extend absentee voters’ listing

Posted on: January 14, 2010

FilAms ask: Extend absentee voters’ listing
By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net First Posted 13:44:00 01/14/2010 Filed Under: Overseas Employment, Migration, Elections, Justice & Rights, Eleksyon 2010

MANILA, Philippines—A group of Filipino Americans have urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Thursday to extend the registration for overseas absentee voters (OAV) by 28 days until February 14 so that more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can vote in the May general elections.

The petition was filed by Maritess Saliuentes Bloom and lawyer Loida Nicolas Lewis of the National Federation of Filipino-Americans Association (NaFFAA).

Citing Section 6 of Republic Act 9189, which specifies that the 240-day prohibitive period for OAV activities starts on September 28, 2009, they said this should also be the registration deadline.

The OAV registration conducted by the commission between February 1 and August 31 violates this provision, and resulted in the disenfranchisement of at least 25,000 eligible voters abroad, Lewis said.

At least a million absentee voters could have registered if Comelec allowed enlistment via mail or Internet instead of being physically present at Philippine consulates and embassies, Bloom said.

“We urge the Comelec to give our kababayans (fellow citizens) abroad until February 14 to register. Let us not disenfranchise OFWs who keep the economy afloat through their remittances. They remain part of this country,” said Lewis, who was former president of NaFFAA.

“I don’t think the registration extension would significantly delay Comelec’s preparations for the OAV elections because the inclusion proceedings were done easily in the 2007 elections,” she added.

Comelec commissioner Armando Velasco, who also chairs the committee on OAV (COAV), said the committee and the en banc will study if it is feasible to further extend the OAV registration given that absentee voters would start casting their ballots starting April 10.

From 364,946 active overseas absentee voters between 2003 and 2007, the COAV registered about 224,000 between February 1 and August 31, bringing the total OAV registrants to 589,830, Velasco said.

The poll official added that Comelec would pilot automated polls in Hong Kong and Singapore; these two places registered the highest turnout of OAV enlistment at 95,355 and 31,853, respectively.

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