Overseas absentee voting

Overseas voting registration closes 2 weeks ahead of deadline in PH

Michelle Abad

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Overseas voting registration closes 2 weeks ahead of deadline in PH

QUEUE. Filipinos line up to register to vote inside the Philippine consulate in New York on October 13, 2021.

Philippine Consulate General in New York

(1st UPDATE) Filipinos could still be seen in long lines outside some Philippine offices on the last days of the registration period

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) closed registration to vote in the 2022 Philippine elections on Thursday, October 14, for overseas Filipinos. The early deadline comes while Filipinos in the Philippines still have a little over two weeks to register.

On September 30, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law extending voters’ registration until October 30. “The last day of registration of voters for the 2022 National and Local Elections shall be thirty (30) days after the effectivity of this Act,” Republic Act 11591 says.

The law made no distinction between local and overseas registration. This placed the Comelec in a tight spot when it comes to overseas voting, a monthlong exercise that starts one whole month before election day in the Philippines.

On Friday, October 15, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez explained that the difference in extension periods is “necessary and due to the unique circumstances of overseas voting.”

Jimenez said that preparations for the monthlong period have a “much tighter timetable.”

He also said that this was communicated to the electoral reforms committees of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The original deadline for overseas voter registration was September 30, simultaneous with the original registration deadline for local voters. The voting period for overseas voters, however, will be from April 10 to May 9.

The poll body did not extend the deadline to October 30 even as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) queued for hours in different areas across the globe, even on the last days.

HONG KONG. Filipinos line up to register to vote in Hong Kong on October 14, 2021 – the last day before registration closes. The line stretches from the United Centre lobby, to Admiralty Bridge, and onwards to the Admiralty station of the Mass Transit Railway.
United Filipinos in Hong Kong-Migrante
NEW YORK. Filipinos hoping to register line up outside the Philippine consulate on 5th Avenue, New York City, on October 13, 2021.
Sourced photo

Matthew, not his real name, registered in New York City on Wednesday, October 13. The immigrant said the entire process took three hours – waiting an hour-and-a-half outside, and another hour-and-a-half inside. The consulate allowed Filipinos to come without setting an appointment, but there were only two consulate personnel processing documents at the time Matthew went.

Ramdam ko yung pagka-Philippine soil niya (Inside, it felt like being on Philippine soil),” he said in jest, remembering government processes back home.

Ten minutes before the consulate closed applications on Wednesday, Matthew was able to get his voter’s stub.

But other overseas Filipinos were not as lucky. Lui Queaño, a quality control lab technician who wanted to register in Toronto, Canada, needed to secure his dual citizenship first before he could register. But because the consulate in Toronto had not scheduled his oath taking yet, he was unable to register.

Nanghihinayang ako na ‘di nakapag-register kasi nga di umabot ang dual application ko (I lament not being able to register because my dual citizen application did not make it in time),” said Queaño.

He said he would channel his energy towards voter education in his community instead.

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The United States Filipinos for Good Governance earlier questioned the legality of the October 14 deadline, calling the Comelec’s decision to set it as “arbitrary, unreasonable, and illegal.” – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.