NO ABSENTEE VOTE FOR OFWs IN 15 COUNTRIES

Manila, Feb. 15, 2003 -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday disclosed there is possibility that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in 15 countries will not be able to vote during the 2004 national polls.

Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., said this after the newly approved Absentee Voting Law failed to address the problem on countries where there are no Philippine embassies.

According to Abalos, out of the 102 countries where there are OWFs, only 87 have Philippine embassies.

"Unless our suggestion for clustering is accommodated, there will be no elections (in 15 countries)," he said.

Comelec records indicate there are 23 countries that have only 10 OFWs and about seven countries have one each documented Filipino worker.

For his part, Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla explained they cannot allow the clustering of countries as suggested by Abalos because they want to pinpoint the defects of the law.

"This will be the trial (for the Absentee Voting Law) and based on the result of the elections next year, we would be able to determine what would be the defects and the corrections that we will do and we can amend this next time," Remulla said in a radio interview.

Under the law, voting by mail will only be allowed in Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom.

In the rest of the 85 countries, particularly in the Middle East, voting will be done through the consulate, where voters will personally cast their votes in the designated polling precincts.

The Comelecs said it would need at least P2 billion for the implementation of Republic Act 9189 or the Absentee Voting Law. It noted it would need more than the P1 billion promised by the lower house.

In a radio interview, Abalos urged Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. to fast-track the release of the P1 billion so they could start preparing the election system that would soon cater to some seven million OFWs in the 2004 national elections.

He explained there is a need to rush up the printing of application for classification that would be distributed to the OFWs in different countries to ensure their participation in the 2004 elections. (Tribune)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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