Comelec seeks P300M more for overseas voting
MANILA, Philippines – Elections commissioner Arthur Lim sought for additional funding to implement their mobile voting program for overseas workers.
Talking to lawmakers on Wednesday, October 28, Lim said it requires an additional P300 million budget to push through the establishment of mobile voting precincts for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
"We will try to really implement this with the cooperation of the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs)," Lim told solons during the hearing of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms at the House of Representatives.
Lim said the amount will be used for the mobile voting activities and honoraria for their election officers who "will go out of their way" to bring the voting machines to strategic locations nearer to the OFWs.
"But again I would like to take this opportunity [to say] that we seem to be not really delayed but our hands are somewhat tight with the lack of funding," the commissioner said.
The budget department slashed P89.6 million, intended for the Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV), from the Comelec's proposed budget. (READ: 'Detached' DBM hit for slashing overseas voting funds)
According to Lim, they have sent a letter to the committee of appropriations to air their concern. They have not received a response, however.
Speaking for congressmen, suffrage and electoral reforms committee chair Representative Fred Castro said they are not "privy" to the decisions of the appropriations committee.
But Castro added the House is "sensitive" to "whatever is needed by the commission on elections to achieve the best elections we could have for our country."
Why not go online?
Comelec earlier revealed its plans to adopt mobile voting, which would bring the voting machines closer to overseas workers who are far away from the embassies.
"Our SBEIs (Special Board of Election Inspectors) from embassy and consulate will come out from the offices and go to designated places beforehand and conduct the voting," Lim explained.
He likened the plan to their "Akyat Barko" program, which orders SBEIs to establish voting stations in established ports to ease voting for seafarers.
Although OFW group Migrante admits mobile precincts could ease voting for workers abroad, it still pushes for online voting, especially for seafarers.
"Mobile voting is okay if it will make polling centers more accessible to OFWs," Migrante's Sarah Maramag told Rappler in a phone interview.
But "Comelec should explore the possibility including them in the sectors allowed to vote via the Internet."
Maramag also criticized the online registration for OFWs for not being completely helpful since it is only implemented in selected countries.
Lawmakers proposing to amend "The Overseas Voting Act of 2013" also sees the online system as an "equal opportunity to all qualified citizens of the Philippines here and abroad in the exercise of the fundamental right of suffrage."
House Bill 4991 or "An Act amending Republic Act Number 10590" is pending before the electoral reforms committee.
Low overseas voter turn out
Based on Comelec figures, only 16% of overseas workers, out of more than 700,000 registered during the 2013 elections, cast their votes.
The seafarers had the lowest turn out of 5.64%. Only 1,513 seamen onboard, out of the 26,808 registered, voted.
These were the figures despite the one month allowance given to them to cast their votes.
The challenges they face during elections include seeking permission from employers, proximity from the consular offices, and high mobility of seafarers. – Rappler.com
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