ABU DHABI // Filipinos whose names were removed from electoral rolls after failing to vote in the two most recent elections will not lose their right to do so in this year's ballot.
Of the 98,206 Filipino voters who were in the UAE at the time of elections in 2007 and 2010, 8,298 failed to cast a ballot at the embassy in Abu Dhabi, and 12,421 at the Dubai consulate.
Under Philippine law, failure to vote in two consecutive elections is grounds for removal from the list of voters. But the country's Commission on Elections (Comelec) last month came up with a resolution that allows delisted overseas voters to take part in this year's midterm elections.
"Their mere presence is enough," said Lucenito Tagle, the chairman of Comelec's committee on overseas absentee voting, at the start of a three-day briefing on automated voting in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
"They will be allowed to vote until the end of the overseas absentee voting period."
But failure to vote this time means they will remain off the active list of voters and be unable to vote in future unless they re-register as overseas absentee voters.
Automated voting for expatriates will take place from Saturday until May 13, the day of the election in the Philippines, at the embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai.
There are 975,263 Filipino absentee voters worldwide, 388,593 of them in the Middle East.
"Filipinos living overseas are an important part of our political process," said Jose Brillantes, the under secretary of Manila's foreign affairs department, who heads the overseas absentee voting secretariat. "They will make a big difference in the elections since there are now close to one million voters abroad."
There will be five precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in Abu Dhabi and eight in Dubai.
"Considering that one PCOS machine can be used by 10,000 voters and that the voting period will last for one month, the number is sufficient for the use of the 29,943 voters in Abu Dhabi and the 68,263 voters in Dubai," Mr Tagle said.
"Their vote can bring them home," said Grace Padaca, a Comelec official. "If we can put good people in government, good governance will mean more opportunities for Filipinos so they do not have to go outside the country."