Mideast OFWs ask Comelec to extend voter registration

MANILA, Philippines – An alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend the overseas absentee voting (OAV) registration period to December 31 to give Filipinos there more time to sign up to vote in the 2010 elections.

“As per the latest Comelec En Banc resolution for OAV registration, it has shortened the registration period from one year to seven months only.

That’s why, we appeal to our officials there, at the Comelec, to reconsider and bring it (OAV registration) back its original (duration) so that our OFWs will have enough time to register and exercise their right to vote in 2010,” John Leonard Monterona, Middle East coordinator for Migrante, said.

Under the Comelec’s calendar, OAV registration ends August 31.

In 2006, Monterona said the Comelec gave OFWs 13 month to register, “one of the factors why OAV registrants (in the Middle East) reached 150,000.”

But with the shorter registration period, he said, it is doubtful whether the Comelec’s target of 1 million new registrants can be met.

As of August 13, there were only 175,687 new OAV registrants, 49,804 of these from the Asia-Pacific region, 33,361 from the Middle East and Africa, 31,808 in the Americas, and 19,153 in Europe.

In Saudi Arabia, where the Migrante-Middle East chapter is based, only 10,718 had registered by the same date. This is only more than 10 percent of the Filipinos working there, Monterona said.

“We are hoping that with the granting of the OAV extension until 31 December 2009, we could gather all in all 300,000 OAV registrants, benchmarking the OAV registrants last 2003 registration or even higher,” said Monterona.

Migrante-Middle East, which has been recognized by the Comelec for its efforts to get OFWs to register for the OAV, said it would redouble its campaign throughout the region.

Eric Joscon, chairman of the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (Brotherhood in the Middle East), a Migrante affiliate in Riyadh, said: “If it is necessary to rent a bus to bring our fellow OFWs living in the industrial areas to the Philippine embassy to register, we will do it without hesitation.” (Dateline Philippines)