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Arroyo to blame for low turn-out in Philippines overseas vote

May. 15, 2007

MANILA — The countrys broadest alliance of OFWs and their families today laid the blame for the low OAV turn out on Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

If OFW voters are disillusioned and disenfranchised, its because of the Arroyo regime. In this regard, it is completely unjust for the DFA and the Comelec to even suggest thoughts of scrapping the OAV mechanism altogether. Given the boundless sacrifices OFWs endure to remit billions of dollars into the economy its downright dastardly for top Arroyo officials to even suggest this total disenfranchisement of OFWs, says Maita Santiago, Migrante International Secretary-General.

With hours to go before the OAV polls close, the turn out of registered OAV voters dropped sharply from about 65% in 2004 to less than 15% in this years mid-term elections. There are approximately 504,000 registered OAV voters.

There are three main reasons why OFW voters arent trooping to the polls in large numbers. Either they didnt know they could vote in the first place, they dont believe their vote will be counted anyways or they have lost faith in the capacity of the electoral system to effect real change for Filipinos, said Santiago.

In all the reasons cited, it is the Arroyo administration that failed OFWs and the OAV process. In particular, the unresolved issue of massive fraud in the 2004 elections by Arroyo herself is fueling the apathy among prospective OFW voters, she added.

Cheating through the OAV

The OAV process began on April 14 and will close on May 14 at 3pm Philippine time.

Since the start of elections abroad, the OFW anti-fraud network, Migrants Watch monitored many alarming signals that point to possible fraud. Among them are instructions from the Comelec to divert OAV Return to Sender ballots by mail to private couriers; a conscious campaign by the HK OAV Secretariat to lower the number of OFW voters given the popularity of progressive partylist Gabriela in the territory; and reports by OFWs about the delayed arrival of ballots and the distribution of incomplete lists of senators and partylists to OFW voters.

Despite all these attempts to silence OFWs and their families, we remain vigilant against all forms of electoral fraud and violence. We call on all Filipinos to join us as we mount a major campaign to ensure that indeed, the genuine voice of the people is heard through the ballot box, concluded Santiago. #

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