The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Saturday said it expects more Filipinos abroad to participate in the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) because the “biggest stumbling block” to the process has been removed.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said revisions in the Overseas Voting Act of 2013 (Republic Act No. 10590), particularly the provision removing the “affidavit of intent to return” requirement, now allows a big number of qualified Filipino abroad to vote.
“The affidavit of intent to return prevented them from exercising their right to vote under the previous law,” Jimenez said.
Under RA 10590, Filipino immigrants and permanent residents abroad will no longer be required to execute an affidavit declaring that they shall resume actual physical permanent residence in the Philippines not later than three years from approval of their registration.
Jimenez also said an Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) will be established under the Comelec to specifically oversee and supervise the implementation of the Overseas Voting Act.
The data of the Comelec – Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting (COAV) showed that only 737,759 Filipinos abroad voted in the May elections.
The number is but a small fraction of the 4,056,940 Filipino immigrants worldwide, based on statistics from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Aside from the removal of the affidavit, the poll body believes that other amendments to the law, such as the utilization of the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars (PDOS) to support the overseas voter registration and voting processes and the allowing of Filipinos abroad to participate in all national referenda and plebiscites will definitely increase the number of voters.
In the past, the OAV only allows Filipinos abroad to vote in presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial and party-list elections.
JOHANNA M. SAMPAN