SENATE President Franklin Drilon on Sunday expressed frustration over the low turnout of Oversees Absentee Voters (OAV) registrants and actual voters despite the huge funds and enormous efforts poured in all past elections.
To avoid further waste of money and energy, Drilon pushed for online absentee registration and voting for the 2016 national elections.
In the last 2013 mid-term elections, it was learned that only 16 percent or about 117,000 of the 737,759 registered voters participated in the absentee voting.
The data provided by the Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was 153,323 voters lower than the turnout of OAV registrants during the May 2010 presidential elections.
During budget deliberation on the 2014 proposed General Appropriations Act last year, the Senate Committee on Finance found out that the Comelec has spent nearly four times for OAV registration than the amount spent by the poll body on local voters during the 2013 polls.
Based on computation of the finance committee, the Comelec spent P319 for each local voter and P1,155 for each absentee voter, based on the turnout of absentee voters.
To effectively address the low turnout of OAV registrants, Drilon called on the Comelec to adopt all the necessary technologies that would encourage the more than 10 million overseas Filipinos to participate in the 2016 national elections.
He particularly cited the use of the Internet to register and vote in 2016 and onward.
The Senate chief pointed out perennial complaints from groups of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), as well as from Filipino immigrants, seafarers and Filipino students abroad qualified to vote, that traveling far to OAV centers in Philippine embassies and consulates discouraged many of them from participating in electing the country’s leaders in the past.
“Online absentee registration and voting is already practiced in about 20 countries, including the US, France, Germany, Italy and Australia. So, I see no reason anymore why it can’t be done in the Philippines as well,” Drilon said.
The poll body through Republic Act (RA) 10590 or the amended Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2013 is allowed to implement online voting or voting via the Internet.
Under Section 28 of RA 10590, the Comelec “may explore other more efficient, reliable and secure modes or systems, ensuring the secrecy and sanctity of the entire process, whether paper-based, electronic-based or Internet-based technology or such other latest technology available.”
Drilon noted that while Filipinos in Hong Kong or Singapore have easy access to OAV centers, the same is not true for their counterparts in many countries in the Middle East and even in the US and Europe, where Philippine consulates and embassies may be located far away from many worksites or residences.