As the 2022 election season in the Philippines heats up, a record-breaking 65.7 million voters are expected to cast their ballots on May 9. Among the millions of registered voters, 1.69 million are overseas Filipinos, in which the candidates in the national post are in battle to win their vote. With this democratic pivotal exercise in one of the largest elections in Asia, can they make a critical difference in a tightly contested race with the pandemic going on?

In line with the Republic Act No. 9189, otherwise known as "The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003, all the registered overseas Filipino voters will be voting personally or via post at their respective Philippine embassies and consulates during the month-long voting period from April 10 to May 9. Overseas voters may only vote for the president, vice president, 12 senators, and a party-list group.

However, according to the Commission on Elections, the overseas absentee voting did not start as scheduled as the five Philippine foreign posts in Wellington, New Zealand; Islamabad, Pakistan; Dili, Timor-Leste; Milan, Italy and in New York were delayed due to difficulties in shipping election materials.

Apart from the delaying of election materials, Filipinos in other countries such as Hong Kong expressed their disappointment due to failed accommodation to the thousands trooped to the Bayanihan Center at Victoria Road, Kennedy Town, to cast their vote. As a result of the late announcement of the Hong Kong Consul General Raly Tejada that only 3,000 of the approximate 93,000 registered voters in Hong Kong would be allowed to cast their vote, which attacks the right to suffrage of the Filipinos.

Meanwhile in North America, voters expressed their fear of disenfranchisement after the COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez announced on April 7 that “In North America (US and Canada) where overseas voting is going to be by mail, the ballots will be sent out upon the start of the voting period. Expect to receive your ballots after April 10.”

With this, a petition letter was signed by more than a hundred members of the Filipino American community in the United States stressing the unacceptable delays in the transport of election materials and the general lack of timely information on the voting process.

Considering the concerns raised regarding the supposed start of voting and underlying problems that might arise within the span of 30-days, Overseas Filipino voters must harness their power to vote. That they can make a difference to promote their welfare abroad through the next leaders they will vote for.

Much has been written about the contributions of the Overseas Filipino Workers to the economic development of the Philippines, but this time their votes play a huge role in promoting democracy and in national political development for the sake of the whole nation and fellow community.

It is now more than ever that the collective efforts of the registered Filipino voters can bring hope for the future of the country as this crucial election will elect the next leaders who, in the next six years, will lift the Philippines from the pandemic downfall.

Written by Karisma Primero

Karisma Primero is currently a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise, and a 3rd year Broadcasting student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines - Manila.

Andrei de Guzman

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