May 5, 2016
OFW advocate and senatorial aspirant Susan Ople urged overseas Filipino voters to get out and vote so that they can help make a difference in shaping the country’s future.
“Vote pa more!” Ople reminded OFWs especially those longing for labor and economic reforms.
Ople, a former labor undersecretary and the lone Nacionalista Party senatorial bet noted that according to data from the Department of Foreign Affairs, overseas voting in 2016 has surpassed previous elections in terms of number of votes, but a million registered OFW voters still need to show up at the polls.
“Our modern-day heroes have only up to Monday to cast their votes. We call on all embassies and consulates to intensify their efforts to get the cooperation of both foreign employers and Filipino workers in ensuring a remarkable turnout by Monday. We also appeal to our OFWs to get out and vote because it is their right and opportunity to shape the future,” Ople said.
Ople says all OFWs and OFW families should encourage their friends and relatives abroad to vote. “This is a hotly contested presidential race, and every vote counts.”
She noted that in the 2010 presidential elections, there were 589,830 registered overseas voters with a final turnout of around 153,323 actual voters representing 25.99% turnout.
Today, based on DFA figures, the number of registered overseas voters reached 1,376,067 – the highest in overseas absentee voting history. As of May 4, 12 noon, the DFA reported a turnout of 286,384 with only four days to go before the end of the 30-day voting period for Filipinos overseas. This represents a turnout percentage of 20.81%, still lower than that of 2010.
“In terms of numbers, our OFWs in the Middle East are leading the way in exercising their right to vote, though the overseas voters in the Asia Pacific Region led by our OFWs in Hong Kong and Singapore are expected to come out in droves over the weekend. The percentage remains low, however. For example, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, since the start of the absentee voting, only 16,384 registered voters have cast their ballots thus far, out of the 114,075 registered voters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.”
Ople pointed out that despite the encouraging increase in voter turn-out in the first 24 days of the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV), there are still 1,089,683 million registered voters overseas who have yet to cast their votes.
“Please do what is necessary to be able to exercise your right to vote. Talk to your employer, hitch a ride with a friend, and plan your weekend so that you can travel to the embassy or consulate nearest you to cast your ballot. It is also just as important to guard your votes, make sure that the voter’s receipt does match the choices you made in your official ballot,” Ople said in her appeal to OFWs.
“The Commission on Elections must also fulfill their commitment to implement measures that would make it possible for OFWs to vote, especially those who are living in faraway job sites or are in vulnerable occupations,” Ople stated.
COMELEC committed to explore means such as deployment of mobile voting centers in major job sites that are far from embassy voting centers and negotiating with the employers of OFWs for day-off to allow Filipino workers to travel and vote in designated polling centers. The commitment was made during the March 23 hearing of the Joint Oversight Committee on the Automated Election Systems.
“Our OFWs are quite supportive of certain candidates so I anticipate a surge of voters especially in Hong Kong, Singapore and some Gulf states over the weekend,” Ople said, while also reminding dual citizens in Europe and the United States of America to exercise their right to vote.
“In this tightly-contested election thousands of votes from overseas Filipinos would really make a huge difference,” Ople said. She vowed to review the overseas voting program when she makes it to the Senate. “We can crowdsource ideas from the OFWs on electoral reforms so that we can look forward to a higher turnout in 2019.”
Ople is also seeking the creation of a separate department for OFWs as well as a hospital for ailing OFWs to be funded by OWWA.