Filipinos overseas take time to vote for new president

DFA.GOV.PH

By Patricia Mirasol, Reporter

GERVIL T. Dahay, a Filipino nurse based in Bayern, Germany took a leave from his job so he could come home in time for this year’s Philippine elections.

“I came home so I could vote while on vacation,” the 38-year-old migrant worker said in a Facebook Messenger chat in Filipino. “I didn’t want my vote to go to waste.”

About 10% or 170,000 of 1.7 million registered Filipino workers abroad had voted so far, the Commission on Elections said on April 28.

Under the law, Filipinos overseas may vote from April 10 to May 9 either manually or through an automated election system. They can either mail their ballots or physically vote at Philippine embassies and consulates overseas.

The top five vote-rich countries are the United Arab Emirates with 290,182 Filipino voters, Saudi Arabia (282,605), US (198,935), Hong Kong (93,886) and Canada (90,545), according to data from the Commission on Elections.

An information technology expert said the country’s voting system has been proven to work despite problems encountered by some migrant workers.

“Our current voting system was tested and vetted in other countries, so why fix a working clock?” Dax L. Labrador, an ethical hacker and founder of hacking conference Rootcon, said in an e-mail.

The actual voting experience varies per country. Forty-six of 92 overseas Philippine posts use the automated election system, the same number as those who use the manual one. Fifty-two, meanwhile, use the postal method.

Neil Fernandez, Jr., a graphic designer and co-creator of iVote.ph, said he and co-creator Rien Lewis Pecson had built the blockchain-based voting platform to demonstrate that new technologies could improve the voting experience.

“We know the hassle and risk of lining up just to get registered during the pandemic,” he said in a Messenger chat. “If we can offer a convenient process, perhaps more Filipinos can vote.”

There are 10.2 million Filipinos in more than 200 territories globally, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

Honey M. Lim, a 43-year-old physical therapist based in Queens, New York, said the postal voting method has proven to be straightforward.

“The ballot comes with a prepaid mail envelope,” Ms. Lim said. “I find voting easier here.”

Some Filipinos in Malaysia managed to vote after several trips to the embassy to get registered.

The actual voting process was smooth, according to Jing, a 41-year-old IT professional in Kuala Lumpur.

“I vote because I want changes in Philippine politics,” she said in a Messenger chat. “I feel sorry for my countrymen and for my family in the Philippines. That’s why I want to contribute and vote.”

Ms. Lim finds it “sad” that not all overseas Filipino workers vote.

“I am so tired of listening to them complain,” she said in a Viber message. “In my mind, they dare complain and say there’s no hope for the Philippines, when you and I have a chance to make changes.”

Among the 8 or so million migrants who choose not to vote is Marie, a 47-year-old nurse in Toronto.

“Some people no longer want to get involved with Philippine politics,” she said in a Messenger chat in Filipino.

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