MANILA (UPDATE) — The Commission on Elections is seeking additional funds to provide stamps for overseas Filipinos' mail-in voting after the budget for stamps was scrapped, the polling body's chairman said Thursday.
Chairman Sheriff Abas said the Comelec's Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) was only allocated about P100 million, but they are seeking for more budget to be able to give these stamps for free.
"Isa ‘yan sa mga in-include namin. As a matter of fact, we discussed that already in the House of Representatives, na baka pupuwedeng dagdagan nila OFOV para yung mga overseas natin, hindi na bibili ng stamps, libre na. Unfortunately, we really have to do it based on our budget," he told ANC's Headstart.
(That is among our inclusions. As a matter of fact, we discussed that already in the House of Representatives, if it's possible to add to the OFOV budget so that those overseas won't have to buy stamps, it's for free. Unfortunately, we really have to do it based on our budget.)
"It’s up to Congress. Actually maraming congressman na gusto nilang ibalik yun sa budget namin. Titingnan natin, after the deliberation kung dadagdagan nila yung aming budget," he said.
(It's up to Congress. Actually, a lot of congressman want to return this to our budget. We will see after the deliberations if they will increase our budget.)
Around 1.6 million Filipinos abroad are registered to vote, but previous turnout was only around 30 to 40 percent, according to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez. While this might not be solely because of the lack of stamps, he said he expects this to be a big issue for them.
"Especially now, one of the strengths of mail voting is that you really don’t have to leave your house if you can just mail the packet, right? But if you have to go out of your way to buy a stamp, then that sort of defeats the purpose," he said.
"I think there would be a significant number of overseas voters who would be turned off by that," he added.
Filipinos overseas can vote via physical appearance at polling centers or through mail.
Comelec is currently holding test runs for internet voting eyed for the 2025 polls.
The poll body piloted the project last week with US-based tech firm Voatz, and the second test run will be conducted this weekend with Smartmatic's TIVI. The third and final test run with Indra Sistemas will be held in the coming weeks.
While there is no enabling law to allow internet voting locally and overseas, Abas said running simulations on overseas voters is a good "pilot test" since there are fewer voters to manage.
Result of the test runs will be used to study whether Comelec would recommend the method for future elections.