MANILA — As the month-long overseas absentee voting starts on April 10, transparency advocates are sounding the alarm over potential issues that may hound the voting process.
Among the concerns of the Right to Know, Right Now (R2KRN) Coalition are reduced funding, lower number of overseas registered voters and international conflicts, which may prevent Filipinos abroad from voting.
Lawyer Eirene Aguila, co-convener of R2KRN, said the significant decrease in the budget may affect the turnout for overseas voting.
"What we have to understand is that it is quite expensive for our fellow Filipinos to vote abroad, not only are the polling places not accessible to them... They either need to go in person that would mean flying to a center or posting via mail their ballots," she told ANC's
The pared-down budget allocated to the Commission on Elections for overseas voting, she added, is only enough for the mailing of ballots.
The poll body requested P510 million for overseas voting but the budget was trimmed down to P111 million.
The R2KRN also expressed concern that the number of overseas Filipino voters has decreased compared in the last elections. About 1.7 million Filipinos living abroad were registered in the 2022 polls, which is 125,000 lower than the elections 3 years ago.
"The coalition believes that this is also a disservice to our fellow Filipinos when we don't pour in as much resources," Aguila said.
"Whether it's getting them, rallying them in a campaign to register and want to vote, assisting them to make it easier perhaps and giving Comelec the necessary support to activate and enforce and to execute the overseas voting program."
From the 1.82 million registered overseas voters in the 2019 elections, the voter turnout was 27.3 percent or 334,242.
Aguila also noted that scores of Filipinos were repatriated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said would significantly affect the upcoming polls.
The coalition also said there might not be an election in countries in conflict, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria.
"There is no certainty whether those who will cast their ballots will either be able to send it or go in person," Aguila said.
Overseas voters may only vote for national candidates such as president, vice president, 12 senators, and a party-list group.