As the Philippine Consulate General in Melbourne prepares for the registration of overseas voters for the May 9, 2022 Philippine national elections, we thought it would be timely to devote this column to all matters relating to overseas voting (OV).
Below are the key facts you need to know:
Q. What is OV? Why is it important for overseas Filipinos to vote in Philippine elections?
Overseas voting is the exercise of the right granted to Filipinos living, working or otherwise situated overseas, to vote in Philippine national elections. This right has been enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution to ensure “equal opportunity to all qualified citizens of the Philippines abroad in the exercise of this fundamental right.”
It is vital to extend this right to the Filipino overseas community in recognition of their continuing involvement in Philippine affairs and their contributions to the country’s socio economic development.
Q. What is the legal basis for the conduct of OV?
Article V, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that Congress shall enact “a system for securing the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot as well as a system for absentee voting by qualified Filipinos abroad.”
Pursuant to this mandate, Congress in 2003 enacted Republic Act 9189, titled “An Act Providing For A System Of Overseas Absentee Voting By Qualified Citizens Of The Philippines Abroad, Appropriating Funds Therefor, And For Other Purposes,” — Overseas Absentee Voting Act, for short, which creates the mechanism for the exercise of suffrage by overseas Filipinos.
In 2013, Congress Passed Republic Act No 10590, “An Act Providing For A System Of Overseas Absentee Voting By Qualified Citizens Of The Philippines Abroad, Appropriating Funds Therefor And For Other Purposes.” Also known as the Overseas Voting Act of 2013, this law did away with the word “absentee” and introduced other refinements to R.A. 9189.
Q. What elective positions may be voted for by overseas voters? Can I vote for a Congressional candidate in my hometown in the Philippines?
Overseas voting is limited to national elective positions. These consist of the President, Vice President, Senators and Party-list Representatives.
A Congressman (member of the House of Representatives), being elected at the level of the congressional district, is therefore not a national position and may not be voted for by overseas voters. The same is true for provincial, city, municipal and barangay officials.
Q. Can overseas voters vote in national referenda and plebiscites?
Yes. This is explicitly stated in R.A. 10590.
Q. Who is eligible to register/vote under OV?
“All citizens of the Philippines abroad, who are not otherwise disqualified by law, at least eighteen (18) years of age on the day of elections, may vote for President, Vice-President, Senators and Party-List Representatives, as well as in all national referenda and plebiscites.” (Sec. 4, R.A. 10590).
Q. Are dual citizens (e.g., Filipino-Australian) eligible to register and vote as overseas voters?
Yes, because they are citizens of the Philippines. The right of suffrage of individuals who have retained or reacquired Philippine citizenship despite having previously been naturalized as citizens of other countries was restored by R.A. 9225, or the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003. This right has been upheld by the Supreme Court.
Q. I am 17 years old but will turn 18 on May 8, 2022. Can I register now for OV?
Yes. The requirement under the law is that the voter must be at least 18 years of age on the day of the election and are not suffering from any legal disqualification. Since the date of the next national election in the Philippines is May 9, 2022, a person who turns 18 before or on this date is eligible to register now.
Q. What are the requirements for OV registration?
Every registrant is required to present the following documents:
- A valid Philippine passport. In the absence of a valid passport, a certification from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) stating that the applicant is eligible to be issued a passport, or that the applicant holds a valid passport but is unable to produce it for a valid reason;
- Accomplished registration form prescribed by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC); and
- For dual citizens under R.A. 9225, the original or certified true copy of their order of approval or identification certificate proving their retention or reacquisition of Philippine citizenship;
COMELEC may also require additional data to facilitate registration and recording.
Q. How is registration done?
Registration and/or certification as an overseas voter shall be done in person at any Philippine Embassy or Consulate abroad or at designated registration centres approved by COMELEC.
Q. When will the Philippine Consulate General in Melbourne start accepting applications for OV registration?
Registration at the Philippine Consulate in Melbourne is scheduled to start in June 2021, after the completion of personnel training and setup of registration systems. An announcement will be made soon on the start of registrations.
Q. When is the deadline for registration for the May 9, 2022 elections?
OV registration for the May 9, 2022 elections will end on September 30, 2021.
Q. How will voting be done in Melbourne?
According to COMELEC, voting will be done by mail (postal) as a general rule, although personal delivery of sealed ballots will also be allowed, at the voter’s convenience.
Q. How long is the voting period for overseas voting?
The voting period for OV is thirty (30) days. Ballots may be received within 30 days ending on the day of the elections in the Philippines (April 10 to May 9, 2022).
In the case of registered seafarers, it will be sixty (60) days up to the day of election (March 11 to May 9, 2022).
Q. I am a registered voter in my municipality in the Philippines but have migrated to Australia. What should I do so I can vote as an overseas voter in the May 9, 2022 elections?
If you are registered in the Philippines and have not registered as an overseas voter in another country or region, you must file an application for certification (not registration) with the Philippine Embassy or Consulate nearest to your place of residence. This has to be done before the end of the current registration period (September 30, 2021).
Q. I am a registered overseas voter in another country but would like to be able to vote in Victoria, Australia, where I now live. What should I do?
You will need to file an application for transfer of registration record with the Philippine Consulate in Melbourne. You have to file this before August 31, 2021.
Q. I registered as an overseas voter in 2009, voted in the 2010 national elections, but failed to vote in the 2016 and 2019 national elections. Will I be able to vote next year?
No. You will not be able to vote because your voting record has been deactivated by reason of your failure to vote in two (2) consecutive elections. You will need to file an application for reactivation at the Philippine Embassy or Consulate where you were registered before the end of the registration period.
Q. I am a registered voter in another country but have not voted in the last two national elections. I have since moved to Australia, and now I want to register and vote in Melbourne. What procedure should I follow?
You should apply for reactivation and transfer of your registration record at the Philippine Consulate in Melbourne before September 30, 2021.
Q. I live in Victoria and registered as an overseas voter with the Philippine Embassy in Canberra during their consular outreach in Melbourne in 2019. Do I need to register again with the Philippine Consulate in Melbourne so I can vote in the May 9, 2022 elections?
No. According to COMELEC, you do not need to register anew with either Canberra or Melbourne. When you receive your mailed ballot from Canberra, you can mail back the accomplished ballot to Canberra.
However, if you prefer to vote in Melbourne, you will need to file an application for transfer of your registration record from Canberra to Melbourne before August 31, 2021.
Q. I am a registered overseas voter under my maiden name. I have since gotten married and begun using my married name in my Philippine passport. What should I do to update my registration record?
If you wish to change your name in your registration record, you need to file an application for change of name with the Philippine Embassy or Consulate where you are registered. You need to file this before the end of the current registration period.
Q. What if I moved to another address within the same voting/consular jurisdiction? How can I receive my ballot at my new address?
If you moved to a new address within the same voting/consular jurisdiction, e.g., within Victoria, you will need to notify the Embassy or Consulate where you are registered of your new address before the end of the registration period. This is to ensure that your ballot will be delivered to the correct address.
Q. Where can I access the registration and other forms online?
All these forms may be accessed at the iRehistro website for overseas voters, https://irehistro.comelec.gov.ph.
To speed up the process, all applicants for registration are advised to fill out and print these forms ahead of their visit at the Philippine Embassy or Consulate.
For more information, email Melbourne.email@example.com.