Congress Should Be Proud

Manila Bulletin, February 4, 2003 | Go to article overview

Congress Should Be Proud


THE Commission on Overseas Filipinos of the Department of Foreign Affairs headed by Executive Director Jose Molano estimates that there are 7.4 million Filipinos working abroad in over 140 countries. The bulk of this total consists of overseas contract workers, but immigrants residing in various countries, especially in the Untied States, are also a major component.

The Constitution of 1987 mandates the enfranchisement of overseas Filipinos, but since the Constitution took effect on Feb. 2, 1987, successive Congresses failed to enact a law enabling them to vote. As I saw it in the Senate, the level of mistrust was very high. Succeeding chairmen of the Senate electoral reform committee, including senators Arturo M. Tolentino, Raul Roco and Miriam Defensor Santiago told us, Ibasura na lang ang absentee voting bill. Dadayain lang tayo ng administrasyon. And so, it happened. The absentee voting bills, one of which I authored, never moved past the committee level.

When Senator Edgardo Angara assumed the chairmanship of the committee on constitutional amendments and electoral reforms in the Senate, the situation quickly changed. He moved to report out the bill on the floor, held public hearings here and abroad, and entered into alliances with sympathetic House members for a parallel effort in the bigger chamber. …

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