By Rene Q. Bas
If Congress heeds President GMA, the seven million overseas Filipinos
now disenfranchised by their absence from home can vote by May 2004.
Judging from what she said about this issue in the SONA, the
President sees many dimensions in giving OFWs and other overseas
Filipinos the means to do absentee voting. Among these, of course,
are the economic and fiscal. She also sees the issue from the
perspective of a government administrator concerned with national
She made the call for the overseas voting law in relation to our "use
of realities in the global and regional environment" to benefit the
This is what she said:
"The strength of the financial and fiscal sectors partly lies in how
we use realities in the global and regional environment to our
benefit. Thus, we will enhance our relations with the United States,
whose economic and military power continues to make it an important
factor in the affairs of the region and the nation. We will also
strengthen bilateral economic and political relations with Japan, our
biggest source of development assistance and a major trading partner,
and more and more, we will design foreign policy and foreign trade
policy in the context of Asean. And I ask Congress to enact a law
giving overseas Filipinos, who continue to play a critical role in
the country's economic and social stability, the right to vote."
This is the correct way to see the issue of OFW's and other overseas
Filipinos' power to vote. Our Filipina Moses sees it holistically
with national security, foreign affairs, foreign trade, Asean, and
domestic socio-political dimensions.
This, I believe, is how GMA always viewed the issue, even when, as a
senator, she filed a bill to give OFWs the power to vote from their
A national security dimension?
The overseas Filipinos are a volatile element that must be prevented
from turning against Philippine interests. They can work abroad
against the Philippine Republic -- if they are not embraced by their
own motherland's government as complete and perfect citizens. Even
now, OFWs who feel unwanted, unappreciated, exploited and abandoned
by the government are fomenting anti-Philippine anti-government
feeling. Some, precisely due to their perception that the Filipino
leaders are refusing to give them the vote, are angrily beginning to
campaign for a remittance boycott to help make life more difficult
for the government and for the people!
Thank God, many other OFWs and overseas Filipinoss are trying to
reason with the remittance-boycott activists, explaining that their
misguided project will only add to the people's misery.
Nurtured, served well by their government and their beneficiaries
(i.e. their fellow citizens back here at home), the overseas
Filipinos can become a major force for Philippine interests.
The overseas Filipinos should be mobilized into forming a pro-
Philippines international lobby. In the USA, they -- being so many,
about two million or more, there -- can become a "Philippine lobby"
as effective as the "China lobby" that helped in a big way to keep
American media, the US Congress and the White House supportive of the
Kuomintang Party and Sun Yat Sen's heirs. The "China lobby" managed
to maintain American support for the Republic of China for so long
even after the emergence of the Communist Party's People's Republic.
A lot of overseas Filipinos are in fact already quite influential in
European NGOs and government human-rights agencies.
It is unfair and unjust to deprive Filipinos of the right of suffrage
just because they are abroad. Congress must listen to the President
and plug this big hole in the fabric of Philippine democracy.
All the model Western democracies but also Japan, Indonesia and
Thailand among many other countries give their citizens located
abroad the right to vote and simple, efficient means to exercise that
As seen in the campaign to expose and fight the wrongs of, first, the
Marcos and then recently the Estrada regimes, the OFWs and our other
overseas compatriots have been among the most upright, well-informed
and patriotic. They are not only economic heroes. They are also
zealous promoters of good governance and deep reforms in the
The Filipinos abroad, more than their "masa" relatives back here at
home, will vote guided by the high measures of good governance and
meritocracy they have observed and studied -- abroad. They will not
choose candidates on tayo-tayo and kumparehan considerations. And
they will not sell their votes.
The overseas Filipino vote will spell the end of the rule of
oligarchs in the Philippines and pave the way for our formal
democracy to become a little bit closer to genuine representative
A delegation of OFWs and overseas Filipinos affiliated with the
worldwide EMPOWER Voting Rights Campaign Coalition is arriving from
various countries next month.
With help from KAKAMMPI, the EMPOWER delegation
is holding a conference August 19-23. Naturally, they
would like to have a meting with President GMA. Unfortunately, the
President's appointments secretary is supposerd to have told KAKAMMPI
that the President will not be able to meet the EMPOWER delegation.
We hope the President decides to give this EMPOWER delegation a
chance to see her if only to thank her for supporting their cause.
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