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 Over 216K Pinoys register to vote for 2010 polls

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Registration date : 2008-01-06

PostSubject: Over 216K Pinoys register to vote for 2010 polls   Fri Sep 04, 2009 6:25 pm

Pinoys in Hong Kong raring to vote in 2010 polls
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Filipinos in Hong Kong have the highest number of overseas voter registrants with 21,905 signing up to participate in the 2010 polls.

Since February, Filipinos in this Chinese province have been the most enthusiastic about the upcoming presidential elections, consistently topping the overseas absentee voting registration.

Hong Kong is followed by:

- Los Angeles (13,205),
- Dubai (12,477),
- Singapore (11,296),
- New York (6,496)
- Riyadh (6,120)
- London (5,821),
- Tokyo (5,257),
- Taipei (5,243), and
- Toronto (4,873)

There are more than 130,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong, mostly working as domestic helpers with two-year contracts. - GMANews.TV

The number of new overseas Filipino voters for the 2010 elections failed to meet the government's one million target, which some groups say is an indication of the prevailing cynicism among migrants on the current political climate.

When the overseas absentee voting (OAV) registration closed on Monday (Aug. 31), only 216,176 Filipinos from 97 Philippine posts all over the world registered for next year's presidential elections.

While this figure surpassed the total number of OAV applicants in the 2007 mid-term elections, which only had 142,667 registrants, it still pales in comparison to the number of registered absentee voters in the 2004 presidential elections.

The Department of Foreign Affairs’ OAV Secretariat (OAVS) said that in 2003, when Filipinos were first given the chance to vote overseas, a total of 359,296 registered.

Ambassador Nestor Padalhin of the DFA secretariat had earlier hoped for a million overseas Filipino voters for the 2010 Philippine presidential elections as the government projected.

"It’s impossible to reach that goal at this point," Padalhin earlier told GMANews.TV.

To reach the millionth-mark, the government should have attracted at least 167,000 new voters every month. But since the registration began in February, the number of OAV registrants has not even reached 100,000 until June.

According to Padalhin, the DFA has done everything, from talking to Filipino community leaders to aggressively promoting the registration in the media to increase the OAV figures, but new overseas voters seem elusive.

“It is likely that most Filipinos overseas have already registered to vote since 2003," Padalhin said.

Advocacy leader Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Advocacy Center lauded the DFA OAVS' efforts in bolstering the number of Filipino registrants and heightening the awareness of Pinoy migrants about the 2010 elections.

"They did a great job. Kudos to them," she said.

However, she said, the fact remains that a big number of Filipinos are simply uninterested in the 2010 polls.

"Iniisip nila na kahit naman bumoto sila, wala namang nangyayari (They're thinking, even if they vote, nothing will change)," she said.

She earlier said that the dismal number of overseas Filipinos who registered might also be a sign that they are bored with the roster of candidates.

"They have to titillate and excite voters," she said. [See: 'Titillate, excite overseas Pinoys to boost OAV turnout']

Ellene Sana, executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy, blamed the poor OAV turnout to several technical problems in the Middle East, particularly the lack equipment to process the number of applicants.

According to her, what used to be more than 50 data-capturing machines in Saudi Arabia was reduced to less than a dozen. Sana said a fire in the Riyadh embassy several years back, has destroyed several machines, which was not fully replenished during this year's six-month registration period.

An estimated 1.2 million Filipinos live and work in Saudi Arabia.

Extend registration

Several Philippine lawmakers have earlier tried to help the government increase the voting turnout of overseas Filipinos.

Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Satur Ocampo filed a bill in Congress seeking to move the Aug. 31 deadline to December, while Senators Manuel Villar and Aquilino Pimentel Jr. wanted to make registration centers more accessible to Filipinos in remote areas abroad.

But even Pimentel noted the “prevailing apathy" among Filipinos toward Philippine elections.

"I had the opportunity to talk with a good number of overseas Filipinos. The response to registration for absentee voting for the purpose of computerized elections was very depressing," the minority leader said.

Aside from fears of jeopardizing their dual citizenship status, Pimentel said many Filipinos are doubtful whether their votes will be counted following the “Hello Garci" controversy in 2004.

“I had to tell them that their votes can actually make a difference. If only a significant proportion of overseas Filipinos will exercise their voting right, they can be a swing vote in the presidential, vice presidential and senatorial elections," he said. - Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV
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