OFWs launch online drive to restore overseas voting fund

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers have started an online petition to force the Philippine budget department to restore the overseas voting funds that it took out of the 2015 budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The petition, entitled "A Call to Restore the Budget Needed in 2015 for the Proper Implementation of Overseas Voting in the 2016 Elections," was created by a group named "Overseas Filipinos" on the website Change.org.

It is addressed to Secretary Florencio Abad of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

"We strongly demand that the DBM restore the P89.6-million ($2-million)* budget needed in 2015 for the proper implementation of overseas voting. This is our basic right. This is the least the government owes us," the petition demanded.

As of posting, the online petition has garnered 463 signatures.

Akbayan Representative Walden Bello made the same plea on September 4, when the House of Representatives tackled Comelec's proposed budget for 2015 as approved by the DBM, which currently amounts to P16.9 billion ($378 million).

Comelec requested P89.6 million from DBM for expenses related to overseas voting – like the resumption of registration for overseas absentee voters (OAV) – but it was slashed by the DBM.

"The DBM seems to be quite detached from the national priorities that Congress is pushing," Bello said. (READ: 'Detached' DBM hit for slashing overseas voting funds)

"While the 1987 Constitution enshrined overseas Filipinos' right to vote, it took us 16 years to get Congress to pass the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003 [Republic Act 9189]. Since then, a million of us have registered to vote," the online petition added.

The petitioners said that DBM's decision jeopardizes their opportunity to vote in the 2016 presidential elections, adding that they "risk life and limb to find work in every conceivable corner of the globe."

"If the government is incapable of appreciating our personal sacrifices as a context for its budgetary priorities, perhaps it should be reminded of our economic contributions," said the petitioners, who noted that they pump billions of dollars into the Philippine economy through their remittances every year.

"We are appealing to you, our relatives and friends, to help us push Congress and the Executive Department to return the P89.6 million overseas voting budget," the petition said.

Voter's registration for Filipinos and OAVs for the 2016 national elections is ongoing until October 31, 2015. – Rappler.com

*US$1 = P44.75

Michael Bueza

Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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