Friday, March 13, 2009

March 4, 2009

Group seeks wider participation in the OAV among OFWs
RONALDO CONCHA, GMANews.TV03/04/2009 02:30 PM
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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – A migrant group on Wednesday urged Filipinos in Saudi Arabia who have yet to register for the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) exercise to sign up now and help select the country’s next leaders in the 2010 elections.

Migrante-KSA batted for wider participation by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as it cited the efforts of the Philippine missions in the kingdom to accommodate more registrants.In response to the request of the community to use the weekend for OAV registration, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah extended the registration period until Thursdays from 8:30 am to 12 noon starting March 1 The weekend registration is meant to allow OFWs living in far places to come and register.

A.M. Ociones, chairperson of Migrante KSA, said it is incumbent upon OFWs who have yet to register to reciprocate the positive response of the Philippine missions.Despite the new schedule, Migrante-KSA asked that the extension be further widened to Thursday afternoons and possibly on Fridays because the new weekend schedule would still jibe with existing working hours and it is only limited in Jeddah or in Riyadh and Alkhobar.

Vice Consul Roussel Reyes, the chairperson of the OAV Committee in Riyadh, said in a telephone interview that the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh is now finalizing the security arrangements with the Diplomatic Police to allow for weekend registrations for Filipinos. Reyes said they will start to extend the registration of OAV of up to Thursday from 8:30 to 12 noon once they get the clearance.

Awareness campaignOciones said Migrante-KSA will conduct aninformation drive among community members by holding discussions on the subject, using a Primer on the Absentee Voting Law they prepared. He said efforts should be made to “widen the awareness of OFWs and encourage the widest possible participation."

The group will also request that more data-capturing machines from the Commission on Election head office in Manila be made available for Saudi Arabia so that mobile registration campaigns would be conducted in different cities. Under the present setup, registration could be done only at the embassy in Riyadh or the consulate general in Jeddah.

Tens of thousands of Filipino workers are dispersed in Saudi Arabia’s vast territory, making it impossible for many of them to visit Jeddah or Riyadh just to register.Migrante also suggested that for companies with high concentration of Filipinos especially in industrial zones, and cities near the registration centers, OFWs should request their employers to set a certain time or day for them to be able to register and to allow them the use of service vehicles.

“It would only take one OFW to take the initiative of preparing the letter and lead the others," Ociones explained. “The OAV Secretariat should also take action by sending request letters to the Personnel Department of companies known as concentration of Filipino workers."

He said many OFWs have done this in the past registration and election exercises.Mobile registrationFor those staying far from the registration centers, Migrante also urged Filipino organizations in various cities to send letters addressed to the Comelec Head Office in the Manila to request for mobile registration.

Vice Consul Reyes admitted that the major obstacle in mobile registration at this point is the lack of data-capturing machines. According to him, at present they only have one machine available."We already requested additional data-capturing machines to the Comelec and they are already in the process of procurement," he said.

Reyes said the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs already approved the holding of mobile registration in Philippine Schools. According to him they already submitted the list of all the Philippine schools in Riyadh and they are just waiting for the MFAs reply if they will allow use of all the Philippine schools or they will just give the selected schools to be used for mobile registrations.Ociones said each OFW should consider participating in Philippine elections a matter of priority so that overseas Filipinos could make a difference.

“Overseas Filipinos have been very vocal about corruption and the political goings-on in the home front, and absentee voting must therefore be seen by our kababayans as the proper venue to vent it all out," noted Ociones.

In line with this, Migrante also called on the various organizations in the kingdom to assist by conducting workshops and education drive among the Filipino community, to "rekindle the interest of OFWs on the constitutionally mandated absentee voting rights the Filipino community worked hard for." - GMANews.TV

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