MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) must explain the low overseas absentee voting turnout, Sen. Franklin Drilon said yesterday.
Drilon, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, said the turnout for the May 13 elections should have improved, considering that the two agencies were given substantial budgets for the implementation of the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) law.
“I hate to sound like a broken record, but I again deplore the dismal implementation of the absentee voting law in the just-concluded midterm elections. I want the DFA and the Comelec to explain why,” Drilon, one of the principal sponsors of Republic Act 9189 or the Overseas Absentee Voting Act, said.
He said a P105.038-million budget was allocated for the Comelec while the DFA received P43.41 million for the OAV this year.
Of the 737,759 registered voters abroad, only 113,209 were able to vote, representing a mere 15.35 percent.
“This turnout is way below the already low 26 percent overseas absentee voting turnout during the 2010 elections. It seems that less and less Filipinos abroad are inclined to exercise their right to vote, contrary to the intention of Congress when this law was enacted,” Drilon said.
“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,” he added.
Drilon said the DFA has been told to look for ways to improve the turnout of OAV.
“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.
Meanwhile, the Comelec said it would push for Internet voting in future elections to increase voter turnout.
Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, chairman of Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting, said the use of the Internet could be a better alternative instead of expanding the scope of the automated elections abroad.
“We think Internet voting is better because they won’t leave their place of work. Even if we use PCOS (precinct count optical scan machines), they still have to go to voting center. All we need is to ensure that there is enough safeguards on this Internet voting... that would really make their votes credible,” he said.
Tagle, however, said ambassadors, consuls and other DFA personnel did their best to encourage overseas Filipinos to vote.
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said he was also disappointed with the OAV turnout, but noted that voters’ interest is also “historically low” during midterm elections.
He said Internet voting might increase the turnout by 60 to 70 percent. – With Sheila Crisostomo