Senate Opens Debates on Absentee Voting Bill; Measure to Give 7.4 Million OFWs Right to Vote in Nat?l elections.(Main News)
Byline: MARIO B. CASAYURAN
The Senate opened yesterday for floor debates on a bill which seeks to allow some 7.4 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to vote in the countries where they are based in Philippine national elections.
Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, and electoral reforms Chairman Edgardo Angara delivered his sponsorship speech on the floor, with an appeal to his colleagues for its speedy passage on the Senate.
"Let us make history today," said Angara as he endorsed Senate Bill 2104, the consolidated bill on absentee voting for overseas Filipinos.
Angara, Senate President Franklin Drilon, and 11 other senators - majority leader Loren Legarda, minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Serge Osmena III, Vicente Sotto III, Blas Ople, Rodolfo Biazon, Gregorio Honasan, Robert Jaworski, Juan Fla-vier, Francis Pangilinan, and Ramon Magsaysay Jr. - are the sponsors of the consolidated measure.
Angara he is confident that the bill will pass on June 5, Filipino Workers Day, at the latest with an assurance of support from the leadership of the House of Representatives.
"Just last night, I met House Speaker Jose De Venecia and he said that his leadership is fully supportive of the bill," he said.
He said they are giving themselves in both chambers 12 session day to pass the bill. Congress is scheduled to go on a sine die break on June 7.
The almost-unanimous committee vote for the absentee voting measure which had slumbered in Congress since 1987 was obtained after intense work that started October last year and 11 consultations and public hearings, seven of these held overseas.
The salient points of the proposed law are:
--All overseas Filipinos who are qualified to vote and have not renounce their Filipino citizenship can vote.
-- Immigrants and green-card holders can vote
--The absentee voters may vote for president, vice president, senators, and party-list representatives. They mayo vote in plebiscites and referendums that cover national issues.
- C counting and canvass of votes will be held onsite.
-- Identification requirements for undocumented Filipinos will be relaxed.
-- There will be strict confidentiality on the information filed by those registering as voters.
-- Adequate safeguards will be priovided by the the Commission on Elections to ensure the integrity of the voting process.
--Non-government organizations and other individuals and organizations will be deputized as election officers after a strict process of accreditation.
--Free diplomatic and consular services will be rendered in connection with the absentee voting proces.
-- NGOs will be involved in the information campaign and the drafting of the law's implementing rules and regulations. …