By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
The number of registered Filipino voters overseas for the upcoming polls has increased by more than 100 percent than the figure six years ago.
Data obtained by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showed that 1,822,115 million overseas Filipinos have been registered for the May 13 elections. Of this number, 794,286 are newly-registered.
The figure marks an increase of more than 100 percent compared to the 737,759 registered voters in the 2013 mid-term elections, and at least 32.4 percent more compared to the 1,376,067 registered voters in 2016 when President Rodrigo R. Duterte won.
In the 2013 elections, the overseas voter turnout was pegged at 16.11 percent or a total of 118,823. The highest voter turnout came from the Asia Pacific (ASPAC) with 51,361 in 2013, and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with 162,261 in 2016.
The DFA-Overseas Voting Secretariat estimated a 30 percent to 50 percent — or about 548,764 to 914,607 — voter turnout in May.
The biggest number of active registered voters are in the Middle East and Africa region with 887,744; followed by ASPAC with 401,390; the North and Latin American region with 345,415; and Europe with 187,624.
While the “decisive votes” are in the hands of those in the country, garnering support from overseas voters is equally important as Filipinos abroad could also influence their families back home, political analyst Ramon Casiple told PNA in an interview on Wednesday.
“If we’re talking about their direct votes, it’s not too significant because we are talking about a million. It’s good if the votes are solid (to one party) but we don’t have a record yet of solid voting,” Casiple said.
“But there is a second weather of influence — it’s their families. If they can organize themselves and campaign for their candidates among their families, and their families to the community — it would have a big impact,” he added.
But what could woo Filipinos overseas in voting candidates for the Congress? By voting abroad, Filipinos can encourage legislators to look into issues that affect them, including overseas workers’ rights.
For Eduardo Lapira, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Las Vegas, Nevada, the US, Congress bets should align their envisioned laws to further protect Filipinos abroad.
“There should be proposals to strengthen punishment against illegal recruiters and sanction against agencies that refuse to protect the abused OFWs,” he said.
Other proposals are for the conduct an annual survey in Embassies and Consulates General to monitor and rate elected officials, which for him, would show sincerity should they win the elections.
Jenne Martinez, a mother of two and an OFW in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on the other hand, said on top of her list are candidates whose platform is focused on assisting their families home.
“As a mother working overseas, I would like to have a representative whose campaign platform promises to reach out to the children of OFWs, especially for those out-of-school children,” she said.
“This initiative may be simple, but I’m certain this would be a great help for Filipino parents working in another country,” she added.
Liberty Marcial and Gang Lomonggo, OFWs from Kuwait and Hong Kong respectively, shared similar points with Martinez — continuation and development of more programs for Filipinos abroad.
Registered Filipino voters may cast their votes starting April 13 until May 13. At the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo alone, Consul General Robespierre Bolivar noted a surge in new voters registration or about 130 percent more than the Philippine government forecast. For the 2019 mid-term elections, around 35,000 were added to the previous 39,369 registered Filipino voters in Japan.
Of the total active Filipino voters abroad, at least 75,000 are based in Japan, he said.
Last week, the Commission on Elections began training personnel of the Philippine Embassy in Japan, as well as other Philippine foreign posts on the technical aspects of the automated postal voting system.
The Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) Act or Republic Act 9189 was passed in 2003, allowing Filipinos abroad to take part in the elections.
Under the OAV, Filipinos working or residing overseas who are qualified to vote may elect 12 senators and a party-list representative.(PNA)