The two-month Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) registration period ended on September 30, 2003. According to the OAV Secretariat of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA OAVS) the partial unofficial tally of OAV registration turnout, as of October 7, 2003 was 360,581. This is 37% of the 900,000 official OAV registration projection based on the actual provisions of the OAV Law.
From this figure, 155,384 (43%) came from the Middle East and Africa, 154, 719 (43%) from the Asia Pacific region, 37,522 (10%) from Europe and 12,956 (4%) from the Americas.
OAV Registration Facilities consisted of eighty one embassies and consulates, 3 MECO offices (Taipei, Taichung, Kaoshiung), 5 satellite registration centers (Dubai, Al Khobar, Macau, Central Hongkong and Rotterdam) and 154 field or mobile registration centers under 44 posts.
According to DFA OAVS, from the total estimate of 7.5
million overseas Filipinos, 30% of whom are minors, former
Filipinos and immigrants, only 1.76M qualify as potential
OAV registrants. The 975,000 target was arrived at after
consideration of the actual provisions of the law plus some
realities on the ground which included the following:
On October 8, the Center for Migrant Advocacy Philippines
(CMA-Phils) in cooperation with the DFA OAVS and the
Consortium for Electoral Reforms (CER) organized a public
forum to conduct an initial assessment of the OAV
Registration from the perspective of the overseas Filipinos
and the advocates. Initial assessment points from Hongkong,
Japan, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Ireland and Europewide
as well as feedbacks from Boston, New York and New Jersey
and Saipan from the US were presented. The reports were
contributions from the network of the International
Coalition for the Overseas Filipinos Voting Rights (ICOFVR).
The government was ably represented by Ms. Catherine
Paredes-Maceda and Ms. Pat Rodolfo, vice chair and staff
respectively of the DFA OAVS. The reports were one in
attributing the following for the low turnout in the OAV
The seafarers' sector likewise expressed strong sentiments on the lack of consultation with them. They felt that the present OAV law was crafted only for land-based overseas Filipinos. And until certain provisions and mechanisms are put in place in consideration of the peculiar situation of seabased Filipinos, the law will remain ineffective and disenfranchising.
Overall, the overseas Filipinos strongly feel that both the Philippine legislators and the Comelec simply failed to appreciate and consider the actual situations and particularities on the ground.
Proceeding from the learnings of the two-month registration period, the urgent task now in the lead up to the 2004 elections is to identify problem areas that may be addressed through executive and administrative corrective measures to ensure better performance in the implementation and actual conduct of voting, counting and canvassing so we can have credible election results.
For succeeding elections, however, the OAV law must be amended accordingly to make it truly enfranchising for the most number of overseas Filipinos.Ellene Sana, Center for Migrant Advocacy - Philippines