Several Filipino organizations abroad have asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to reconsider its plan to de-list some 160,000 overseas Filipino voters who failed to vote in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
In the five-page petition, the groups cited several reasons why Filipino overseas absentee voters failed to vote in the last two elections, among them pressing security concerns and highly-mobile occupations. Some, they said, live or work in areas that are far from the polling places.
"The very fact that they registered to vote should be appreciated — which means that they have not forgotten their homeland and wish to still be involved in choosing the country's leaders," the petitioners said.
The Comelec last August said registered overseas absentee voters who failed to vote in the last two consecutive elections are likely to be delisted, and are scheduled for deactivation by the Resident Election Registration Boards.
Section 13 of the Overseas Voting Act provides that the COMELEC shall deactivate and remove the registration records of any person, who did not vote in two consecutive national elections.
But according to the petitioners — which included the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC), US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), European Network of Filipino Diaspora (ENFID), Middle East Network of Filipino Diaspora (MENFID) — overseas Filipinos must be given consideration for their billion-dollar contribution to the Philippine economy.
"A country like the Philippines should do everything to give a leeway for its citizens to participate in democratic exercises and not penalize those who failed to vote twice by depriving them of their suffrage rights," they said.
They added that the Comelec's plan would be detrimental to its goal to have more overseas absentee voters to participate in the 2016 elections.
"COMELEC destroys its own overseas voters registering campaign goals and those of the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and CFO (Commission on Filipino Overseas) and those of many private individuals and civic organizations when it is so ready to summarily disenfranchise thousands already registered," the groups stated.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez has yet to respond to GMA News Online's inquiries while Chairman Andres Bautista could not be reached for comment. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News