Nov. 19, 2010

IN the 2010 Philippine national elections, close to 8,000 dual citizens registered in the New York consulate alone to vote for president, vice president and members of Congress.

But of the 8,000 registered voters only 2,930, or 30 percent, actually voted.

These are small numbers considering that there are about 380,000 Filipino-Americans and permanent residents under the jurisdiction of the Philippine consulate in New York.

Overseas Filipinos and naturalized citizens of other countries had campaigned long and hard for them to vote in Philippine elections and have their voices heard in Philippine affairs.

Besides, their dollar remittance now reaching $18 billion a year keep the Philippine economy afloat in these trying times.

So why is there such a small turnout in the last three national elections starting in 2004 since the enactment of the landmark Overseas Absentee Voting Act and the Dual Citizenship Law?

Number 1 downer: Permanent residents are required to sign a document requiring them to return to the Philippines within three years after voting in an election.

Number 2: Limited period (six months) to register in a Philippine election.

These two provisions should be abolished to encourage more participation in national elections by qualified overseas voters.

In a recent visit to New York, Pangasinan Rep. Gina de Venecia, wife of former five-term Speaker Jose C. de Venecia, promised to file a bill amending some of the onerous provisions of the Overseas Absentee Voting law.

The neophyte congresswoman agreed to abolish the requirement for permanent residents to return home three years after voting. She also favored a continuous registration for overseas voters within three years of an election, not just six months as now required.

Overseas voters can help speed up these amendments by writing to congressmen and senators to co-author the intended amendments by Rep. de Venecia.

Only by registering and voting en masse can the overseas voting population live up to its potential as a swing vote in Philippine election.

Otherwise, the so-called “sleeping giant” of absentee voters will continue to be just that.

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