By Johanna Sampan And Jefferson Antiporda Reporters
THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday expressed dismay over the 16% turnout of the overseas absentee voting (OAV) during the recent midtern polls.
“I am definitely disappointed about the performance of the OAV,” said Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., who admitted that a very small number of Filipinos cast their ballots during the month long voting period.
Comelec-Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting (COAV) head Lucenito Tagle attributed the low turn out of voters to the low interest level of the Filipinos abroad.
“According to our ambassadors and consul generals, they even went out of their way to entice the voters pero maraming ayaw. Maybe they are not so interested. I’m not satisfied,” Tagle said.
“Ayaw mismo nung mga botante maybe because this is a midterm elections at hindi daw nila kilala yung mga kandidato (the voters did not participate because it is a midterm elections and they do not know the candidates),” he added.
Based on the data provided by the COAV, only 117,383 of the 737,759 registered voters participated in the OAV. This translates to only about 16 percent, which is lower than the 25 percent or 153,323 voters’ turnout in the May 2010 polls.
The two poll officials said lawmakers need to pass a law allowing Internet voting to give Filipinos abroad a chance to cast their votes without even leaving their workplaces.
“Hindi talaga very practical na pupunta ka pa sa embassies at consulates. Maski nga yung automated areas, pupunta ka pa din sa isang lugar para bumoto. The solution is really the Internet voting,” the poll chief pointed out.
“We are strongly pushing for the Internet voting. That’s the only way to increase our number of overseas voters and improve the system of OAV,” Tagle said.
In January 2007, the Comelec approved the holding of OAV in Singapore using the Internet voting system by employing the services of Spain-based Scytl Technologies.
Under the system, voters received a pin code from election officers based in Singapore and were able to access a list of voters and cast their ballots through the Internet.
Sen. Franklin Drilon wants the Comelec and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to explain the dismal OAV turnout despite the increased budget allocated to the two agencies.
Drilon, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, noted that P105.038 million was allocated for the Comelec and another P43.41 million was released to the DFA for the implementation of the absentee voting law this year.
But instead of increasing the number of Filipinos participating in the OAV, the number decreased.
“With only 113,209 overseas Filipinos voting, the cost of each absentee vote is now P1,310 per vote. This is outrageous. I wonder how the Comelec and the DFA can justify these numbers,” Drilon said.
He added that the result of the OAV voting during the 2010 presidential election was considered poor because out of the 589,830 registered absentee voters, only 153,323 or 26 percent participated.
“When we crafted the absentee voting law, we wanted to empower the overseas Filipino workers in the hope that at least they can influence the result of the election by electing qualified leaders. However, the turnout is getting more and more disappointing by the election,” the senator lamented.
Drilon was one of the principal sponsors of Republic Act No. 9189, or the Overseas Absentee Voting Act, which was enacted by Congress in February 2003.
He said that he specifically directed the DFA, during the budget deliberation last year, to find ways to increase the participation of overseas Filipinos in the 2013 midterm elections.