Sen. Imee Marcos on April 11 called for extended office hours at Philippine embassies and consulates to ensure that OFWs can cast their votes in this year’s national elections.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation, warned that setbacks reported on the first day of voting in Hong Kong, the United States, Italy, and New Zealand may be replicated in other areas where large OFW populations are located.
“Let’s not wait for a last-minute scramble to implement remedies. Thousands of OFWs will end up being disenfranchised,” Marcos said.
“The immediate solution is to extend voting hours at our embassies and consulates, while the logistical challenges of setting up more voting precincts still have to be sorted out by the Commission on Elections (Comelec),” she added.
Marcos pointed out that government offices abroad did not have consistent voting hours with some ending mid-afternoon and others extending into the night.
“Long lines, the delayed shipment of election paraphernalia, and unreceived mail-in ballots are preventing many OFWs from voting,” she stressed.
Complaints reaching Marcos’ office from Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom also revealed that some OFWs still did not know where to vote or that the deadline for voter registration was already over.
“The Comelec and DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) must review the math of accommodating OFWs in different areas daily and within the one-month voting period allotted,” said Marcos.
“It’s also not too late to ramp up an information campaign so that OFWs know their precinct assignments,” she added.