JERRIE M. ABELLA, GMANews.TV
A migrants’ rights group has commended the Philippine diplomatic post in Saudi Arabia for allowing overseas absentee voting (OAV) in three alternate centers in the Kingdom.
In a release dated April 20, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh announced that voters registered in Riyadh but listed in Al Khobar, or vice versa, can now vote in any of three other voting centers across Saudi Arabia.
The three centers are the International Philippine School in Al Khobar, the Embassy in Riyadh and the Philippine International School Buraydah.
Migrante-Middle East praised the move—called the manual tagging system—especially in light of the low voter turnout in the Kingdom midway through the month-long OAV.
As of April 27, only 11,787 Filipinos in Saudi Arabia have cast their votes. This figure is only about 10% of the 112,350 registered voters in the Kingdom. (See: Overseas absentee voter turnout hits 12%)
“This is a good move; it will surely be a big help to overseas absentee voters who have been deployed in other places or have changed their accommodation," Migrante regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said in a statement.
“The new rule will make voting easy by just going to the nearest polling precinct to cast their vote," he added.
Monterona likewise urged the Embassy to establish polling centers in areas where there is a large concentration of overseas Filipino workers.
“The Philippine Embassy and Consulate, and the Commission on Elections’ committee on OAV now realize and consider the physical location of OFWs who are in different locations all over the Kingdom; thus establishing polling centers in OFW-populated areas should be seriously considered," the Migrante official added.
Postal voting may also be the more appropriate mode for some voters, he said.
According to Monterona, there are OFWs living outside Riyadh or Jeddah, or as far as hundreds of kilometers away from the Embassy or Consulate.
Most of the employers likewise do not allow their hired workers to travel from their job sites or barracks without permission.
As this developed, the Embassy said Saudi-based Filipinos may contact the OAV Section at telephone number (01) 4820507 ext. 2127.
Written queries or requests regarding the OAV can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the Embassy's fax number, (01) 4883945.
Similarly, the committee on OAV can be reached through Yahoo Messenger and Facebook, through its e-mail address email@example.com.–JV, GMANews.TV