The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Saturday said they can now expect more Filipino voters abroad to participate in the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) because the “biggest stumbling block” was already removed.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that the signing of Republic Act No. 10590 or the Overseas Voting Act of 2013, particularly the provision removing the “affidavit of intent to return” requirement now allows a big number of qualified Filipino abroad to vote.
“This would allow countless Filipino immigrants to participate in Philippine elections,” the poll official said.
“The affidavit of intent to return prevented them from exercising their right to vote under the previous law,” he added.
Under the RA 10590, Filipino immigrants and permanent residents abroad shall no longer be required to execute an affidavit declaring that he/she shall resume actual physical permanent residence in the Philippines not later than three years from approval of his/her registration.
Jimenez also said that an Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) shall also be established under the Comelec to specifically oversee and supervise the effective implementation of the Overseas Voting Act.
The data of the Comelec—Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting (COAV) showed that there were only 737,759 registered voters in the 2013 polls.
However, statistics from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) revealed that the number of Filipino permanent residents has already reached to 4,056,940 worldwide as early as 2009.
Aside from the removal of the affidavit, the poll body believes that other amendments to the original OAV law including the utilization of the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars to support the overseas voter registration and voting processes and the allowing of Filipinos abroad to participate in all national referenda and plebiscites would definitely increase the number of voters.
In the past, the OAV only allowed Filipinos abroad to participate in Presidential, Vice-Presidential, Senatorial and Party-list elections.