Overseas Filipinos, please register as absentee voters!

Aside from my pet project, “Shoes”, I have embarked on another initiative to encourage our kababayans overseas and those leaving the country for the very first time, to register under the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) program of the Comelec and Department of Foreign Affairs.

Continuing OAV registration started on October 1, 2005 and was supposed to end by August 31, 2006. In a commendable move, the Comelec has decided to extend this deadline by another month or until September 30, 2006.

Registration requires only that the applicant bring his or her passport and fill out an OAV registration form. It takes only a few minutes but leads to the political empowerment of every OFW/dual citizenship-holder. By the way, previous registrants need not register again.

If you are leaving the country for the very first time as an OFW, you can register as an absentee voter at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Building and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Just ask for directions to the nearest OAV registration desk.

In 2004, when overseas Filipinos exercised their right to vote for the very first time, there were 364, 187 registrants out of who 233,092 actually voted (65% global turn-out). There were heartfelt stories of retired Filipinos who lined up at their embassies at dawn’s first light, wearing their best outfits, in order to cast their historic ballots. Exercising the right to choose national candidates affirms their being Filipino at heart despite the distance, and connects them to their homeland’s fate as responsible citizens. This hard-fought right may soon be lost if the government-backed Cha-cha Express steamrolls its way through the moleskin of history, so please do claim your right now.

As of August 15, the Comelec in close coordination with the DFA has reigstered 100, 119 new overseas absentee voters. Kudos to the team of Ambassador Weng Sanchez of our Philippine Consulate in Sanfo, USA for having the most number of new registrants. More updates on the status of our OAV program soon.

For those who wish to know more about how to register, please visit www.dfa.gov.ph. And if you have relatives abroad, please encourage them to register as well. Remember, deadline ends September 30, 2006!

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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