By MIKHA FLORES
OVERSEAS absentee voters (OAV) who are eligible to vote in the May 13 elections total almost a million after the Commission on Elections reversed an earlier resolution that would have disenfranchised close to 240,000 voters who failed to vote in the past two elections.
“In effect, we are reinstating the list of those which we deleted in a previous resolution,” Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said after the poll body issued Resolution 9653 allowing Filipinos living overseas to reactivate their voting status up to the last day of voting for OAVs.
Section 9 of RA 9189 or the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2004 gives power to Comelec to remove OAVs who failed to vote for two consecutive national elections.
“After discussions with the representatives of the overseas Filipinos, “Sabi nila: ano naman masama kung pagbigyan natin sila (What is wrong if we give them the chance to vote),” Brillantes said. “So we came back to the original plan where those who will come out and vote (their very presence) will be the act of activation para hindi na di-disenfranchise yung mga gusting bumoto (so that we won’t disenfranchise those who want to vote),” Brillantes added.
OAVs numbering 238, 557 were originally given until January 11—from an earlier deadline of December 21, 2012— to apply for reactivation but only 40 voters complied. With the reinstatement, the number of overseas voters is back to 988,384, almost 12,000 short of the original target of one million absentee voters.
For this year’s mid-term elections, the new OAV registrants totaled 386,332 voters, the highest turnout so far. The second highest turn-out was last achieved in 2004, the first elections where the OAV system was implemented, with 364,187 registrants.Three years later, new registrants dipped to 143,236. In 2010, 235,950 new voters registered.
The Comelec says overseas voters can start casting their votes at 8 a.m. on April 13, local time of the host country. Voting will end at 7 p.m. of May 13, Philippine time. Voters who have not yet cast their vote beyond 7 p.m. can still vote if they are within 30 meters from the polling place.
Overseas voters have three waysto cast their vote: personal voting, postal voting and field voting, with Comelec choosing which form of voting is applicable for every diplomatic post.
For personal voting, OAVs will cast their votes at diplomatic posts or other voting areas designated by Comelec. Posts include Philippine embassies, consulates, Foreign Service establishments and other Philippine government agencies maintaining offices abroad.Posts also include the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) and the three Manila Economic and Cultural Offices (MECO) in Taiwan.
For postal voting, the ballots and other election paraphernalia are sent to the voters by mail. The voters can either mail or personally deliver the accomplished ballots to the diplomatic posts. For field voting, OAVs can cast their vote for a limited period in places were field registrations were held.
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