Migrants’ group fears disenfranchisement, fraud in OAV

ANTIPOLO CITY, Philippines—Migrante International, a federation of more than 100 overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) organization in 23 countries, fears that there will be disenfranchisement and worse, fraud in the conduct of the overseas absentee voting (OAV) this coming April.

“The thousands of registered OFW voters in Hong Kong and Singapore are slated to vote in two months, yet the Comelec (Commission on Elections) hasn’t even conducted mock elections and field tests in both countries. Given the major transmission glitches of the PCOS machines that marred the recently concluded mock polls in Quezon City and Taguig, we are very much worried that the Comelec’s much ballyhooed automated voting abroad will definitely lead to failure of elections,” Garry Martinez, Migrante’s chairperson said in a statement.

Hong Kong and Singapore, with a combined number of registered voters of 127,206, represent the 20 percent of the total overseas voters, worldwide. Based on the Comelec’s tally there are 589,830 absentee voters registered allover the world.

However, there are about 138,113 OAV voters to vote by mail in 49 countries abroad, said Martinez.

The migrant leader also complained the alleged non-conduct of voters’ education among OFWs in the said countries.

Aside from the technical glitches on the use of the voting machines and the non-conduct of voters’ education, the migrant leader also complained the number of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) designated for use in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Reports say that the Comelec issued 30 PCOS for Hong Kong and Singapore use, four of which are spares.

“It (the machines) isn’t enough. The automated OAV balloting will run for a month, thus there is a need for the Comelec to send more stand-by machines just in case the PCOS machines breaks down or fails to operate,” he said.

“In this light, we commit our global ranks to safeguard our votes. We have fought long and hard for our right to vote in absentia. We will not allow vote rigging hawks in the Arroyo regime to again rob us of this right,” Martinez said. (Pilipinas Reporter; another story in Dateline Philippines)