August 15, 2012
E-VOTING SHOULD BE AN OPTION FOR OVERSEAS FILIPINOS
During yesterday's budget hearing for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Senator Edgardo J. Angara proposed an online voting system for Filipinos working and living abroad to make the absentee voting process more convenient and effective.
According to figures from the DFA, nearly 800,000 have signed up for overseas absentee voting (OAV) to participate in the 2013 midterm elections, pushing them closer to their goal of one million by October of this year.
However, Angara said that this is still a small percentage of the millions of Filipinos and their families who now live abroad.
"When we wrote the Overseas Voting Law around five years ago, there was an estimated three million Filipinos from around the world who were qualified. Three million potential votes can make a big difference on the national elections. Now there are even more potential voters, yet the turnout remains critically low due to practical constraints," he lamented.
Angara explained that in North America alone, there is an estimated 1.5 million potential voters. However, they face logistical difficulties arising from the required physical appearance for registration and voting. If the registration site is in another state, it will take these people away from their jobs and homes just to vote.
The veteran legislator also noted that the program is moving slowly despite the sufficient fuding given over the past years.
"We should improve the overseas absentee voting program because right now the budget given does not match the output. Around P200 million was alloted for the assistance to overseas workers, yet we have less than a million registered voters and less than 200,000 who actually vote.
"Moreover, P120 million of that 2012 budget is still unspent. Perhaps we can channel the unspent 2012 allocation for the OFW assistance fund into establishing an e-voting system in all the countries which are technologicaly capable. We can conduct online registration and voting safely and securely for these Filipinos," proposed Angara, vice-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
Angara suggested an interagency task force headed by the Oversight Committee on Overseas Voting in the House of Representatives, together with the DFA and COMELEC, dedicated to working out the mechanics of online registration and voting.
"We should sieze this opportunity to use modern technology to empower Filipinos who work hard abroad. They should have a say in electing our leaders," he stressed.
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