THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) is drafting guidelines to enable overseas Filipino seafarers to vote via the internet for the midterm elections in 2025.
Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia said they are targeting the release of the guidelines for seafarers by next week.
Garcia hopes that by shifting to online voting, more Filipino seafarers would be encouraged to register and vote.
There were 489,852 Filipino seafarers deployed in various international ships in 2022.
The Comelec en banc had earlier approved a resolution allowing for around 5 million Filipinos working or residing overseas to vote via the internet.
Garcia said there were only 1.967 million Filipinos who registered in the last presidential elections in 2022.
Of these voter registrants, only 600,000 cast their votes.
For the past 10 years since the implementation of the Overseas Absentee Voting, this is already the highest turnaround of voters.
But Garcia said the 39 percent turnaround is still very small, and they want to know why. Aside from the 30-day voting period in person at the embassies and consulates, Filipinos were also allowed to mail in their votes.
“Why, despite all efforts by our embassies and consulates, we still failed to encourage Filipinos abroad to vote during 30 days?” he asked during the forum on OAV.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. also asked him during one of their meetings: “How come when we send the mail ballots, they will not send back even if the postage is still free?”
The government spent P417 million to implement the OAV in 2022.
“On a per capita basis, that’s very high. That does not include other costs like the leasing of machines,” he added.
Comelec is also coordinating with the House of Representatives and Senate if they can also be allowed to conduct the registration of first-time voters via the internet.
At the moment, only previously registered voters can register online for change of voting precinct or reactivation of voter registration for those who failed to vote in the last two national elections.