SENATOR Aquilino Pimentel III sought Thursday to provide a system of absentee voting for qualified members of the electoral staff of national candidates and accredited national political parties and party-lists, and election lawyers.

Urging his colleagues to pass Senate Bill 2763 amending local absentee voting law, Pimentel said the right of suffrage should be fully exercised by every citizen.

Local absentee voting or voting in absentia allows certain individuals to vote within a specific period before the date of the election.

Under the current law, only government officials and employees, members of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and media practitioners, including their technical and support staff are entitled to avail of local absentee voting.

The said accredited personalities have to be present on election day in places where they are not registered to vote in order to perform election duties, functions and services that are related to the conduct of elections.

Although the present law aims to increase participation by citizens who cannot vote on election day due to their respective circumstances, Pimentel said the same factors are present in two other groups of voters that are yet to be granted the same right.

In the 2013 polls, applicants for absentee voting were at 18,612 but only 8,224 cast their votes who would have been otherwise disenfranchised were it not for the current law.

“While it may seem like a small number, we all know that in every election, every vote counts,” Pimentel, chairman of Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, said.

He said the system also provides that only positions that can be voted for in local absentee voting are president, vice president, senators and party-lists.

Pimentel said the proposed measure would give a national candidate 56 members of his or her staff to avail of the right to vote plus three election lawyers.

“This bill will not only ensure a higher voter turnout but, more importantly, promote greater involvement of the citizenry in the electoral process,” the senator said. (Sunnex)