Philippine citizens abroad, who are given the right to vote for President, Vice-President, Senators and Partylist Representatives are divided which term should be used to refer to such act of suffrage.
Is it Overseas Absentee Voting or Overseas Voting?
This matter is made more confusing by mainstream and social media, which alternately use either phraseology on their articles.
Some quarters are saying that overseas Filipinos should not be considered absent in the Philippines because, even if they are abroad, they still continue to be involved in the political, economic and social landscape in the Philippines. Also, the use of the word “absentee” is making “overseas” redundant.
On the other hand, some say that since the Filipino voters are not present in the Philippines, they are considered absent. They are similarly situated as those under the Local Absentee Voting Act. Under the latter law, civil servants who, by reason of their office, functions or deputisation cannot vote in their respective precinct because they are somewhere else, are allowed to vote in the place where they are assigned. This pertains to members of the military, police, teachers and other officials or employees in the civil service who have assignments at other precincts or areas.
Consul Voltaire Mauricio of the Philippine Embassy in London answered this question during a town hall style of meeting of Filipinos organised by a Filipino TV program based in Europe. He said that it does not matter which one is to be used because both pertains to the right of Filipinos who are outside of the Philippines to be able to exercise the right of suffrage. He further said, however, that“overseas voting” is more widely use already.
Legally speaking, the term “Overseas Voting” is the correct one to be used after Republic Act No. 9189, promulgated on February 13, 2003, known as the “The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003” was amended by Republic Act No. 10590.
RA 10590 states:
“SECTION 1. Short Title. – This Act shall be known as ‘The Overseas Voting Act of 2013′.”
Thus, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) have been using “overseas voting” and “overseas voters” in all its Resolutions and Decisions with regard to the conduct of the 2016 Synchronised National and Local Elections.
The other significant amendment of RA 9189 is the deletion of these provisions about the execution of an affidavit by immigrants and private residents the non-compliance of which is a ground for disqualification to vote and punishable by not less than one (1) year imprisonment:
“Sec. 8. Requirements for Registration. – Every Filipino registrant shall be required to furnish the following documents:
x x x
c. In the case of immigrants and permanent residents not otherwise disqualified to vote under this Act, an affidavit declaring the intention to resume actual physical permanent residence in the Philippines not later than three (3) years after approval of his/her registration as an overseas absentee voter under this Act. Such affidavit shall also state that he/she has not applied for citizenship in another country.”
“Sec. 5. Disqualifications. – The following shall be disqualified from voting under this Act:
x x x
4. An immigrant or a permanent resident who is recognized as such in the host country, unless he/she executes, upon registration, an affidavit prepared for the purpose by the Commission declaring that he/she shall resume actual physical permanent residence in the Philippines not later than three (3) years from approval of his/her registration under this Act. Such affidavit shall also state that he/she has not applied for citizenship in another country. Failure to return shall be the cause for the removal of the name of the immigrant or permanent resident from the National Registry of Absentee Voters and his/her permanent disqualification to vote in absentia.”
“Sec. 24. Prohibited Acts. – In addition to the prohibited acts provided by law, it shall be unlawful:
x x x
24.9 x x x
Immigrants and permanent residents who do not resume residence in the Philippines as stipulated in their affidavit under Section 5(d) within three (3) years after approval of his/her registration under this Act and yet vote in the next elections contrary to the said section, shall be penalized by imprisonment of not less than one (1) year, and shall be deemed disqualified as provided in Section 5(c) of this Act. His/her passport shall be stamped “not allowed to vote”.