ALMOST halfway into the ongoing one-month overseas voting, turnout remains low with only a fraction of the more than one million registered overseas Filipino voters able to cast their votes so far, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Commissioner Arthur Lim, chairman, Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV), disclosed on Tuesday that as of April 19, only 95,947 overseas voters out of 1,386,067 registered voters had cast their votes.
Lim admitted that the turnout was very anemic in relation to the commission’s target of 80 percent turnout , which is equivalent to 1.1 million voters, at the end of voting hours on May 9 even as he expressed confidence that the turnout would pick up during the last two weeks of voting.
“It’s still low. We are hoping that when votes in areas adopting the mix modified postal voting will come in and received, it will increase. There is also the last two minutes habit [of Filipinos]. In the last two week, we are hoping that there will be really a big turnout,” he said.
The 30-day overseas voting started on April 9 and will end on May 9.
The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003 enacted the system that allows Filipinos abroad to exercise their right of suffrage.
Overseas voters are only allowed to vote for national candidates such as President, Vice President, senators and party-list representatives.
There are 85 voting centers around the world but voting in three areas Baghdad (Iraq), Damascus (Syria) and Tripoli (Libya) were suspended for security reasons.
During the 2010 elections there was a 26 percent turnout out of more than 500,000 voters and 16 percent in 2013 out of 710,951 voters.
“If we could reach 50 percent, we would already be happy. Higher than 50 percent is already a bonus, Lower than 50 percent, I hope not, But surely we should exceed the 16 percent of around 700,000 registered voters turnout in the 2013 mid-term elections,” Lim said.
He cautioned candidates and their supporters that overseas campaigning is no longer allowed after the start of the overseas voting on April 9.
The campaign prohibition on election day, according to him, is expressly provided under the law, which is April 9 to May 9 for overseas voting and April 8 and 9 here in the Philippines.
“We will monitor and record the violations, and we will act accordingly. The law provides that during election period, there is no more campaigning,” Lim said.
He added that the same is also true for social media campaigning, which he noted is hard to control because nobody can stop someone from posting on his or her Facebook account.
“We will monitor and study that. It is an en banc matter and I will not preempt the en banc,” Lim said.