The Department of Foreign Affairs’ Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat (DFA-OAVS) denied Thursday a migrant group’s claim that OAV funds were diverted from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to the DFA for the visit of President Arroyo to the United States last July.
In a statement released Wednesday, Migrante International chairman Gary Martinez said that the main reason why the OAV registration was stalled was because of the diversion of OAV funds – something the DFA dismissed as having “no basis in fact."
“The DFA-OAVS has a separate budget from that of the Comelec to take care of expenses associated with OAV registration, including office supplies and materials, travel in connection with mobile registration, and information dissemination," said the DFA in a statement Thursday.
The DFA also said that there is “no factual basis" to attribute the alleged lack of funds to the non-registration of some overseas Filipinos as voters.
“In fact, the various Philippine embassies and consulates general have adequate funds and have been proactive," it said, adding that they have even conducted mobile registrations in more than 234 sites, apart from the numerous field registrations conducted by Philippine posts.
After seven months of OAV registration, only a total of 229,165 new OAV registrants were recorded.
There were 361,457 Filipinos registered as overseas absentee voters in 2003 and 142,667 in the 2005-2006 OAV registration. Of these, 132,820 voters were deleted from the National Registry of Overseas Absentee Voters of the Comelec for failure to vote in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
As of September 9, the DFA said that there are a total of 600,469 overseas Filipinos (371,304 old OAVoters and 229,165 new voters) eligible to vote in the May 2010 elections.
“This number was achieved following proactive efforts by the DFA and the Comelec to encourage more Filipinos abroad to register," it said.
The DFA said these efforts include sending letters of appeal to 1,500 Filipino community organizations worldwide, aggressive media promotion in the Philippines, and various forums organized by non-governmental organizations like the Center for Migrant Advocacy and the Blas Ople Foundation.
The department said it also helped that they set up OAV registration centers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. - Kimberly Jane Tan, GMANews.TV