"They gave OFWs 13 months to register before the 2007 elections. We are wondering why this time, the Comelec just gave us less than 7 months. OFWs has only one day-off a week, so practically we were only given 28 days to register for the 2010 election. We reiterate our appeal to the Comelec to give us more time so that we can participate in choosing the next national leaders of our country this coming election," says Gina Esguerra, secretary general of Migrante International.
Esguerra claimed that they were trying to hold a dialogue with Comelec Chairman Jose Melo before the conclusion of OAV registration last August 31, 2009, but the meeting was only set today with Commissioner Armando Velasco.
"We would even like to invite the Comelec Commissioners to visit OFWs in the Middle East specifically in Saudi Arabia so that they will see the actual conditions why OFWs are having a hard time to register. We believe we have done our part when Chairman Melo wrote to us seeking Migrante's assistance to encourage OFWs to register. It is now time for Comelec to give consideration for OFWs by setting a special registration period up to November 20, 2009," Esguerra added.
The group explained that holding a special registration up to November 20 is reasonable enough since the schedule for filing of candidacy will only begin on November 21, 2009. They also claimed that OFWs tend to participate more on Presidential election as experienced during the 2004 elections rather than on senatorial election that was held last 2007.
"The number of OAVs that have registered so far clearly shows that there was not enough time for Comelec to attain its 1 million target. OFWs deserved to be given a second chance to practice their right to vote and all we are asking is an additional two month period which is still shorter than what the Comelec has given us before the 2007 election," Esguerra concluded.
OAV registration concluded last August 31 with only less than 300,000 OFWs signing up for the registration. When the said registration began in February 11, 2009, Comelec set a target of 1 million new OAV registrants.