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OFWs decry lack of preparation, information on overseas voting

05 April 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap


Migrant leaders around the world hold a zoom press conference on overseas voting concerns

With just five days to go before overseas voting for the Philippines’ national elections kicks off, Filipino leaders in various overseas posts have decried what they said was the apparent lack of interest on the part of the government to boost voter turnout.

In a press conference held Tuesday, Filipino community leaders in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Canada and the United States all complained of delays in preparation and information dissemination by officials at various Philippine consulates and embassies.

Migrante International chairperson Joanna Concepcion who acted as moderator, said this seeming unpreparedness has sparked fears of massive disenfranchisement of Filipino overseas voters.

The month-long overseas voters will be held from Apr Apr 10 to May 9.


 Marami po ang nag-uulat sa ating mga kababayan sa labas ng bansa na may mga isyu po silang hinaharap. At mukhang hindi pa handa ang ilang mga embahada at konsulado natin sa ibang bansa para makaboto ang ating kababayan,” she said.

(Many overseas Filipinos have reported issues that they’re facing. It seems some of our embassies and consulates are not prepared to let our countrymen to vote). 

Shiela Tebia-Bonifacio of United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante) said that because of the delay in preparations and the lack of timely information, “bulag na bulag ang community” (the community is totally blind) as to what would happen when the overseas voting rolls out.

Bonifacio says HK OFWs have ben kept in the dark about OV preparations

Bonifacio said the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong held a briefing on the upcoming elections only last Sunday, Apr 3, long after Filcom groups had pressed for a meeting so they could be updated on what preparations, if any, were being made for the vote.

Her sentiment was echoed by Egay Bonzon, coordinator of 1Sambayan Italy who complained of a seemingly deliberate effort by the Philippine embassy in Rome to consult with Filcom leaders on the election.

Ang komunikasyon namin dito sa embahada sa Roma, halos hindi namin maramdaman,” Bonzon said. (We hardly feel any communication between us and the embassy in Rome).


Kulang na kulang sa impormasyon sa mga kababayan natin para tugunan ang tungkulin nila na maging mas maayos ang takbo ng eleksyon.

(There is hardly any communication with our fellow Filipinos here, something they should be doing as part of their job to ensure that the election runs smoothly).

As an example, he said a letter his group sent to the embassy awhile back asking for the time and date for the testing and sealing of vote counting machines was answered only yesterday, and the date set is this coming Thursday, giving them little time to prepare.

Bonzon said the lack of enthusiasm in getting overseas Filipinos to take part in elections started only during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, making him think that there is a deliberate effort now to exclude those abroad from voting.

Bonzon in Italy asks if there is deliberate attempt to exclude Filipinos abroad from the vote

Meanwhile, Migrante Saudi Arabia chairperson Marlon Gatdula said Filipinos who live far from the three polling areas in the region – Jeddah, Riyadh and Al-Khobar – may be deterred from voting.

He called for more mobile outreach teams to help Filipinos in far-flung areas in Saudi Arabia to cast their votes, and for more information to be disseminated on the electoral process.

Of the 1.67 million registered Filipino overseas voters, the big bulk are in the Middle East, which has more than 785,000 of them.

Gatdula also brought up the so-called “red tagging” of groups deemed antagonistic to the government as having a terrorizing effect on some voters.

Nerissa Allegretti of 1Sambayan USA said Filipinos there are also groping for information on voting procedures because consulates, with the exception of the one in San Francisco, had yet to issue guidelines.


Alegretti also raised an alert over the long delay in mailing ballots to voters across the United States, saying they used to be sent out as early as March in previous elections.

Ngayon, mag April 5 na dito, wala pa ding natatanggap, tapos ilang araw na lang mag start na ang eleksyon,” she said. (Now, it is almost April 5 here and we haven’t received them when there are only a few more days left before the start of the election).

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite who also spoke at the press conference said the problems raised by the migrant leaders was due to the government’s lack of concern for the interests of overseas Filipino workers and effort to make them take part in national affairs.

As a result, only a small percentage of Filipinos abroad have enlisted for the chance to choose their  national leaders, he said. Of about 7-8 million Filipinos abroad, only 1.68 million are registered to vote and of this figure, only 336,549 or about 20%, voted in 2019.

Gaite said he will bring up the concerns raised by overseas leaders when the House of Representatives’ committee on suffrage holds its next hearing.


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