Rough Times for Overseas Voting

Rough Times for Overseas Voting

April 10 is the official start of Overseas Voting, the right of Filipinos that live and work overseas to exercise their right to suffrage. Registered voters expect to receive their election packets in the mail. They will cast their votes and mail their ballots back or drop them off at the Embassy and consulates before the end of the voting period on May 9, 2022, at 7 PM Philippine time (or 5 AM Alberta time).

A couple of days before the supposed start of the election, on April 8, COMELEC spokesperson James Jimenez announced through Twitter that ballots will only be arriving only after April 10 to foreign posts. This is after concerned registered voters in the US complained that they have not received their ballots. The Philippine Embassy in Ottawa and consulate in Calgary have not announced if they have received the ballots from the Philippines. Even then, it is only after these consulates have prepared the election packets that all registered voters in British Columbia, Yukon, and Northwest Territories, Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Western Ontario and Manitoba may expect to receive their ballots next week. This is a week later than the declared start of the OV. The Filipino community in Canada has repeatedly raised the alarm on potential voter disenfranchisement in this election due to the lack of systematic coordination.

During the press conference of Migrante International, a global alliance of Filipino organizations raised the urgent concern of disenfranchisement as many of their members have not received their election packets. Migrante’s members based in Hong Kong, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and the United States said in a press conference that there has been lack of outreach from the Philippine posts to inform them about electoral processes. Speakers at the said media event were frustrated. They talked about putting so much effort into complying with the requirements and yet they felt that they were ignored. “In Canada, representatives said issues began with the short two-week extension they were given when migrants were attempting to register for the upcoming elections” said Earl Dacara, arepresentative from Kabayan for Leni-Kiko. “Many registered voters have yet to receive their ballots and accreditation for poll watchers remains slow. Talagang kulang sa information dissemination dito sa overseas voting,” he added.

“With the slashing of OAV funds by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), many have anticipated this to take place,” said Danilo De Leon, the Chairperson of MigranteCanada. Danilo was talking about the 2022 national expenditure plan submitted to Congress last year. The Department of Budget and Management has recommended ₱26.498 billion for Comelec’s new appropriations. However, the budget has been slashed by ₱15.5 billion from the poll body’s ₱41.993-billion proposal.

With the expected high voter turnout, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said that “The DBM’s deep cut into the Comelec’s proposed budget will significantly impact how the Comelec will conduct the 2022 national and local elections.” In a press interview, Jimenez also noted that various electoral boards will be among the most affected units by the budget reduction.

As kababayans in Alberta that were registered to vote prepare to exercise their right to do so, there are still challenges. Many were caught in an address change mess. For example, a migrant worker that was registered to vote in Abu Dhabi during the 2016 elections were told by the Calgary office to vote in Abu Dhabi. Taking off work to go to the consulate in Calgary is also one of the many challenges that kababayans need to deal with. A caregiver who works and lives in Fort McMurray asks,“If I’m registered to vote and I did not get my election packets in the mail, how do I go to Calgary and get my packet there? It will be hard, if not impossible for me to take off work.”

As De Leon talked about the frustrations of kababayans and members that are coming to Migrante to air their grievances, he said that he also is affected personally. He cannot find his name in the list of registered voters. “Naka rehistro ako nung 2016 and sabi ng Vice Congen sa Calgary na registered pa daw ako pero di ko na makita pangalan ko. Papano ako boboto?” he lamented.
Over 1.6 million Filipinos overseas are set to cast their votes in the 2022 elections. Approximately 16,148 are in the province.

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