KUWAIT: A 30-day period given to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to cast their vote for president, vice president, senators and a party list representative under the Overseas Absentee Voting law kicked off yesterday at the Philippine Embassy in Faiha. Hundreds of Filipinos thronged the embassy as early as 7 in the morning to cast their votes, bringing with them hopes of radical change in terms of governance and creation of laws that could improve the lives of Filipinos. The process started at 8:20 am and the first 100 voters were a group of supporters of a well-known candidate from Mindanao.
Philippine Consul General Raul Dado, who is overseeing the Philippine embassy elections, explained the delay was technical. “All vote counting machines must be set to zero before casting of votes, and we have to show to members of the media and other representatives all the machines set to zero,” Dado explained. “This is a good start in Kuwait, and I noticed the excitement on the faces of all Filipinos coming here early in the morning to cast their vote for their favorite candidate. This will continue every day until May 9,” Dado said.
Five candidates are running for president – Jejomar Binay, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe and Mar Roxas. The presidential election in the Philippines is slated for May 9, but overseas Filipinos are given a month’s period to cast their votes at their missions abroad.
One of the early voters interviewed by Kuwait Times said he voted for a president who would rightfully fight for the rights of every Filipino without considering his/her religion, affiliation and status in life. “I voted for a president who will uprightly elevate the country’s dignity to run the country in the best way possible, eliminate corruption, refuel our economy and once and for all get rid of drugs and criminality in the country among others,” said Antonio Cadiz Barojabo.
About 10 million Filipinos work abroad – but only 1.3 million are registered as Overseas Absentee Voters (OAVs). In Kuwait, there are 200,000 Filipinos who are eligible to vote, but only around 49,000 are registered and can vote in this year’s election.
Another voter said he wanted a continuity of the ‘straight path’ governance being promoted by the current administration. “Although he is not a perfect president, he is committed to ending the war in Mindanao through his BBL – I would rather support his advocacy by choosing someone who will continue what he started if that person wins,” said Maryam, a Muslim Filipina and a native of Mindanao.
Earlier, Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa reminded the Filipino public that the canvassing of votes (on May 9) will be open to poll watchers and representatives of political parties at the embassy. “We want to show the transparency of the embassy on May 9, and we will canvass the votes publicly. Our challenge in our post is to be able to encourage at least 30-40 percent of the voters to vote. We want to ask the support of employers to allow their Filipino workers, if they are registered, to come out and vote for their government officials,” the envoy said.
In order to vote, Filipinos must be registered as OAVs at their respective embassies or consular offices, proceedings which took place at the embassy a few years back. Voting will continue until May 9, 2016. The Overseas Absentee Voting Act is a law in the Philippines passed on Feb 13, 2003 which provides for a system for citizens of the Philippines residing or working outside the Philippines to vote in an election. The process is being implemented by Commission on Elections (COMELEC) with the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
By Ben Garcia