Villar urges DFA to extend aid to OFW voters

TEAM PNoy senatorial candidate Cynthia Villar urged Friday the Philippine embassy and consulate personnel abroad to ensure smooth absentee voting for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that started over the weekend.

“We urge all officials and personnel in Philippine embassies and consulate offices abroad to go out of their way and extend all forms of assistance they can give to the more than 900,000 Filipinos abroad who are qualified to vote under the absentee voting law,” Villar said.

Villar and her husband, Senator Manny Villar, have been long-time advocates of granting Filipinos abroad to the right to participate in national elections.

“We are aware that in past elections, many of our workers aboard who are qualified absentee voters were not able to vote due to several problems in their working places,” Villar said.

“We are hoping that in this elections, more and more Filipinos aboard will be able to vote and exercise their duty in selecting the leaders of this country,” she added.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) personnel were told to see to it that the conduct of the overseas absentee vote should be honest and orderly, thus maintaining the integrity of the process.

“Allowing our OFWs to participate in our elections is one significant way we can acknowledge their contribution to the country,” Villar said.

“They are our modern-day heroes and it is still through their remittances that the Philippine economy has remained up float,” Villar added.

The preparation and information conducted jointly by the Comelec and DFA has satisfied Villar, but she said she would not be surprised of last-minutes problems that would arise in various polling centers for Filipinos abroad.

Citing the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) Act, Villar said Filipino officials posted in embassies and consulate offices were mandated to extend all forms of assistance to encourage overseas Filipinos to make use of their voting right and to help them overcome problems in registering and casting their ballots.

Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle said some 900,000 Filipinos abroad are set to cast their absentee votes starting Saturday and that the poll body had completed preparations for the conduct of the overseas absentee voting.

Tagle, chairman of the Comelec’s Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting (COAV), said the first to vote using the automated machines were Filipinos in Hong Kong, followed by Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Comelec opted to hold automated polls in areas where there’s a large concentration of Filipinos. Comelec records showed Hong Kong has 83,118 voters; 50,063 in Singapore; 55,842 in Dubai; 30,328 in Jeddah; 30,468 in Kuwait; 53,396 in Riyadh; and 21,645 in Abu Dhabi. (Leyte Samar Daily Express)
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