Due to the nature of their work, Filipino seafarers often find it difficult to vote during elections.
This may already be a thing of the past, if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is allowed to adopt internet-based voting in the May 2016 polls.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Rafael Seguis believes internet voting will make voting “more accessible” especially to sea-based workers who often face the difficulty of being able to cast their votes while at sea.
Seguis cited how the use of the internet has already proven to be capable of increasing voter registration among seafarers based on the ongoing online registration system called “iRehistro”.
In fact, of the estimated 400,000 Filipino seafarers, there are already some 68,000 registered absentee voters.
The DFA recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Comelec and Marina for the establishment of a field voter registration center at the Maritime Industry Authority for the overseas absentee voting of seafarers.
MARINA Administrator Maximo Mejia also expressed hope that voting will be made more accessible to overseas voters especially to seafarers noting their high interest to participate in next year’s polls.
“We cannot guarantee that we can register all the 400,000 but based on the trend we are seeing, there is really a high interest among Filipino seafarers to vote in May,” he said.
At present, overseas absentee voting (OAV) only allows personal voting at the Philippine embassy/consulate and mail voting to the Philippine diplomatic outposts.
The Comelec is not yet decided on whether it will push through with the pilot testing of the internet voting next year as they are still studying the idea.
But Comelec Commissioner Al Parreno said its also in the law that the poll body may explore means for online voting.
Section 28 of the Overseas Voting Act of 2013 provides that Comelec “may explore other more efficient, reliable and secure modes or systems, ensuring the secrecy and sanctity of the entire process, whether paper-based, electronic-based or internet-based technology or such other latest technology available, for onsite and remote registration and elections”.