Comelec urged: Probe ‘disenfranchised voters’ in Middle East

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2019 05:21 PM | Updated as of Apr 14 2019 07:58 PM

MANILA--The Commission on Elections should look into reports of disenfranchised overseas absentee voters in the Middle East, 2 party-list nominees said Sunday.

Some registered voters who traveled for an hour to Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia despite heavy rains allegedly found that they have to wait before they could vote, until the registered list of voters could be downloaded on the laptop of a Comelec representative, according to a video by migrant worker Romy Navidad.

Alay Buhay party-list also received reports of OFWs who were regular voters but whose names did not appear in the voter’s list in Jeddah, said the group’s nominee Michael Fermin.

“We hope that our Commission on Elections address these very urgent concerns because it is difficult enough for our OFWs to seek their employers’ permission to vote. Let’s make sure they are able to vote without further glitches or additional requirements said to be necessary for validation purposes,” he said in a statement.

Some overseas workers were also reportedly puzzled over a Comelec staff’s supposed instruction for them present their Iqamas or residence cards for verification purposes.

This should not be part of the validation process since voting must be based on citizenship, not work or residency status, said OFW welfare advocate Susan Ople.

She urged various labor offices to help OFWs coordinate with their employers about the 1-month overseas absentee voting period so that they get work leaves.

“A lot of our OFWs do want to vote but distance and work assignments get in the way. This is why when they are already at the precinct – or in Al-Khobar’s case, the international school – they should be allowed to vote without inexplicable delays,” Ople said.

Some 1.8 million overseas Filipinos are registered voters. Of the total, 800,000 voters are based in the Middle East.

Overseas Filipinos can cast their votes until May 13 at the Philippine embassy or consulate that they are registered in.