Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) registration in Hongkong. (File Photo)
Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) registration in Hongkong. (File Photo)

MANILA, Philippines — “We are not only disenfranchised in this election, but also discriminated. Our right to vote is being shortchanged.”

This was declared by Eman Villanueva, third nominee of Migrante Partylist, in response to changes in the conduct of the overseas absentee voting just revealed as the elections for OFWs started today, 13 April.

According to Villanueva, it was discovered that overseas voting is not using indelible ink anymore to indicate that one has already voted.

“OFW voters were caught completely off-guard for they were expecting such mark not only as an assurance of the safety of her vote but also as an indelible symbol that she has exercised her right to vote. We are afraid that such arbitrary shortcut to the voting steps shall open the process to possible fraudulent acts and there is no alternate way instituted to ensure the security of our vote,” he remarked.

Taking advantage of the presence of COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes in Hong Kong, the matter was immediately raised. However, Villanueva said, they only got more disappointed when the COMELEC chair admitted that it was budget consideration that made them do away with the use of the ink and even the lock for machines.

“On hand, the COMELEC is candid in saying that politicians in the Philippines are not keen in giving an increase in the budget for the OAV. But on the other hand, chairman Brillantes, also pointed out that the low turnout in voters does not make policymakers keen in upping the budget allocation for OAV for the number of voters will be assured. To put upholding the right of Filipino citizens abroad subject to the interest of a politician’s career is not only preposterous but downright wrong,” Villanueva said.

In the first place, he added, increasing the turnout of voters abroad depends on the structures in place and the system implemented. He illustrated the case of Hong Kong that was only provided with nine (9) PCOS to serve the more than 122,000 registered voters in the said territory.

“Never has the OAV been provided with sufficient funds to ensure the maximum participation of OFWs. Now, they are passing on the ball to us as if the individual’s choice of voting is the main reason for the low turnout of voter’s and not the failure of the COMELEC and the government to provide the right condition for OFWs to practice our right of suffrage,” he stated.

Villanueva added that, “never has the tokenism of OAV implementation been as clear as before.”

The OFW party said that the Filipino community in Hong Kong and elsewhere has never just sat back during the OAV and has actively encouraged OFWs to register and vote .