BERN, Switzerland – Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. over the weekend told Filipinos here to register and deliver the so-called “swing votes” in the national elections in 2010.
Pimentel told Filipinos attending a public forum at the Philippine Embassy here that they have the opportunity to deliver votes because it was unlikely that their votes could be bought or sold.
“You can really make a difference because doon sa atin, unfortunately, ang ibang mga botante makakita lang ng P100 ay naduduling na,“ Pimentel told the audience.
“At this point, the Filipinos overseas are just about the only voting bloc that will not be sold,” he said.
Pimentel also said it was unlikely that overseas votes could be tampered because Embassy personnel manning the overseas voting centers are professional career service officers, not beholden to the administration or any group.
“It cannot happen here. It is not possible dito or elsewhere abroad,” said Pimentel, who is in Geneva to attend a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentarians Union (IPU) on human rights.
Low registration trunout
Pimentel made these assertions in the face of a generally low turnout in overseas absentee voting (OAV) registration. The foreign affairs department reported that OAV registration just passed the 100,000 mark in mid-June, far short of the target 1 million registrants when OAV registration ends on August 31.
Pimentel however said he has suggested mobile registration centers to be set up by Philippine embassies and consulates abroad.
“Sa lahat ng departure places ng Philippines, para sa barko o eroplano, dapat may registration doon where you can already pre-register,” said Pimentel.
He said more efforts must now be made to make it easier for overseas Filipinos to register.
Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland Maria Theresa Lazaro, meanwhile, assured the Senate minority leader that all avenues are being used to register qualified voters in Switzerland, including the registration of undocumented Filipinos or those without legal documents to stay.
“Documented or undocumented, you can register. That is your right because you are a Filipino citizen,” Lazaro told the audience.
The Embassy has mounted an active registration campaign, even offering free snacks for registration sessions at the Embassy and after Sunday masses in churches in Zürich and Bern.
As of June, OAV registration in Europe only ranked fourth among OFW centers after the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, and the Middle East-Africa cluster. There is an estimated 4 million qualified overseas Filipino voters.