PH officials to OFWs in Italy: Go out and vote

MANILA, Philippines – Unlike other Filipino communities abroad, making polling precincts accessible is not the biggest challenge that the Philippine Consulate in Milan, Italy, is facing.

Their enemy: the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)’ lack of interest in voting.

In one of Rappler’s online conversations, OFWs identify accessibility as one of the reasons the turnout for OFW voters continues to dwindle through the years.

It’s a different story for OFWs in Italy, according to the Philippine Consulate General in Milan, Marichu Mauro, as they gear up for the start of the OAV there from April 9 and up to May 9, 2016.

"It’s not really accessibility because the transportation system is very effective and efficient here in Italy,” said Mauro in an interview with Rappler. “Ang usual na reason nila ay may trabaho sila…It’s more [about] their willingness.”

For the consul general, accessibility cannot anymore be made an excuse as they’ve implemented programs that will help reach out to OFWs who live far from the polling precinct in Milan.

In the first overseas absentee voting (OAV) in 2004, the turnout was at 65%. Policy-makers considered that figure low at the time given that the government spent more than P112 million for the exercise.

The turnout dropped even more in the last two elections – only 25% in 2010 and 16% in 2013.

Mixed Voting System

The Comelec has approved the mixed voting system for OAV in Italy, giving registered Filipino voters the option to either go to the consulate to vote or have their ballots mailed to them.

Those who wish to vote by mail will simply have to contact the consulate office and send a request.

Other than these 2 options, ballots will also distributed to voters all over Northern Italy during consular visits. The schedule for these will be announced on the consulate’s website.

Out of the 34,000 registered voters in Milan and northern Italy, the Comelec set their target to a turnout of at least 4,000 voters. Mauro said she is optimistic that they will be able to get more.

The remaining challenge now is convincing OFWs to set aside time from their busy schedules to vote.

Mauro said they’ve been reaching out and explaining to Filipinos in Italy the importance of voting.

“Okay, hindi ka makakapagtrabaho ng ilang oras… by casting your vote, pero napakalaki naman ng kapalit non dahil nakapagexercise ka ng karapatan mong bumoto at napakinggan ang boses mo,” Mauro said. “Huwag na nating intayin ang Mayo… Nanawagan ako sa mga kababayan ko, go out and vote!”

(Okay, you will not be able to work for a few hours… by casting your vote. But you will get more in return because you're able to exercise your right to vote and your voice is heard. I’m calling on my fellow countrymen, go out and vote!)

The OFW Vote

The number of Filipinos abroad who registered as overseas absentee voters for the 2016 national elections breached the 1-million mark.

Based on the final figures of the Comelec, there are 1,376,067 overseas Filipino voters (OFV) registered worldwide for the 2016 polls. Among them, 1,326,728 are land-based voters, while 49,339 are seafarers.

Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim said in a previous interview with Rappler that the poll body is now aggressive in its efforts to combat voter apathy and have more of the country's "modern-day heroes" involved in the electoral process.  

"Bayan mo ito. Wherever you go, maapektuhan ka ng mga policy ng mga pinuno natin. Kung hindi ikaw, kamag-anak mo sa Pilipinas," said Lim, who also chairs the Comelec Office of Overseas Voting. (This is your country. Wherever you go, policies of our national leaders will affect you or your relatives in the Philippines.) – Rappler.com