x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Filipinos in the UAE leave it late to register to vote

Last-minute rush for Filipinos abroad to register to vote in May's mid-term elections.

ABU DHABI // Dozens of Filipinos waited until the last day to register to vote in their country's mid-term elections.

Overseas voter registration for the May 2013 election opened at the Philippine Embassy on November 2 last year.

Mylene Sunogan, 35, a quality control engineer who has lived in Abu Dhabi for four years, turned up at the embassy with her husband, Ricky, 35, and sons Ricky James, 6 and Ricky Joshua, 2. The couple signed up before noon.

"I'm aware that there's an ongoing registration but had no idea when it began," she said. "I wasn't interested in the elections for a long time, but now I'm doing this for my children."

"We've never failed to inform them to register," said Jose Jacob, the consul-general at the embassy. "Even if they can do it earlier, they usually wait until the last minute to do something. It's a bad habit among Filipinos."

The mid-term elections will be the fourth since overseas Filipinos were first granted voting rights in 2004. Citizens who have registered previously and voted in the past two polls do not need to register again.

"I feel bad that I was unable to vote in the previous elections because of job constraints," said Joventino Rodriguez, 52, a telecommunications technician in Abu Dhabi for 21 years.

He registered for the 2004 presidential elections but was unable to vote. He also failed to vote in the 2007 and 2010 elections so his name was removed from the national registry of overseas absentee voters.

In total, 17,041 voters in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain and 30,679 voters in Dubai and the Northern Emirates were registered for the 2010 presidential elections. However, only 7,917 voted.

"Our nationals do not have a natural inclination to participate in government affairs," Mr Jacob said. "It may have something to do with the nature of their work and the demands of the job in the UAE."

Overseas absentee voters worldwide are given one month to cast their votes beginning on April 13, while those in the Philippines will vote on May 13, election day.