2025 Philippine elections

Philippines transitions to online voting for most overseas Filipinos in 2025

Dwight de Leon

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Philippines transitions to online voting for most overseas Filipinos in 2025

Seniors and PWDs are accommodated in open spaces of the Rizal Elementary School in Taguig City for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on October 30, 2023, and made to sign waiver forms to ensure their official ballot are cast by election officers.

Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) For the 2025 midterm polls, the Comelec says mail-in and physical voting will only be available for overseas Filipinos in countries with internet restrictions

MANILA, Philippines – Online voting will be the primary mode of casting ballots for overseas Filipinos in the 2025 midterm elections, except in countries with internet restrictions.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman Rex Laudiangco said mail-in and physical voting will likely be implemented in only around 17 posts across a dozen countries, namely:

  • Philippine embassy in Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea)
  • Philippine embassy in Dili (Timor-Leste)
  • Philippine embassy in Beijing (China)
  • Philippine Consulate General in Chongqing (China) 
  • Philippine Consulate General in Guangzhou (China) 
  • Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai (China)
  • Philippine Consulate General in Xiamen (China)
  • Philippine embassy in Yangon (Myanmar)
  • Philippine embassy in Ankara (Turkey)
  • Philippine Consulate General in Istanbul (Turkey)
  • Philippine embassy in Moscow (Russia) 
  • Philippine embassy in Abuja (Nigeria)
  • Philippine embassy in Amman (Jordan)
  • Philippine embassy in Beirut (Lebanon)
  • Philippine embassy in Damascus (Syria)
  • Philippine embassy in Tehran (Iran)
  • Philippine embassy in Tripoli (Libya)

Details of the exact technology that the Comelec will use are not immediately clear, but the poll body is eyeing the use of a mobile application with identity authentication features that overseas Filipinos may download on their devices.

“We can assure you that the system being procured by Comelec has authentication and enrollment features. It will confirm and audit and record not only one’s registration and enrollment, but also the casting, counting, and canvassing of votes,” Laudiangco said in Filipino on Tuesday, April 2.

“Our system is capable of printing the votes in the consulates and embassies, even here in the Philippines, and these will remain secure and confidential. If you can trust financial and banking institutions with your money, you can also trust the system that the Comelec will procure because security and auditability will be our priority,” he added.

The poll body said the move will save the Comelec hundreds of millions of pesos since it would no longer have to ship voting machines in many countries.

It also targets to improve voter turnout among overseas Filipinos, after the 2022 Philippine elections saw a still dismal 38% turnout abroad, despite being the highest in history.

The Comelec said in July 2023 that internet voting would only be optional for overseas voters in 2025.

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After a failed bidding in February, the Comelec on Tuesday opened the second round of bidding for the procurement of online voting technology, with one joint venture besting three other participants.

The joint venture of US-based company Sequent Tech and local firm SMS Global Technologies advanced to the post-qualification stage of the procurement process after submitting a bid worth P112 million, undercutting the next lowest bidder, Voatz and its local partners, which offered their services for P435 million.

The Comelec’s maximum budget for the contract is P465.8 million.

The Comelec under previous leaderships tiptoed on adopting online voting, citing the Overseas Voting Act of 2013 that provided that a new law was necessary in order for internet voting to materialize.

The 2013 law, says the Comelec, is authorized to explore other ways – such as internet-based technology – to make overseas voting more efficient, but results of its evaluation must be submitted to Congress.

When veteran lawyer George Garcia took helm of the Comelec, he insisted that no legislation or prior approval from Congress is needed to shift to online voting, arguing that Congress yields to the expertise of the commission in understanding the peculiarities of overseas voting. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.