By RODOLFO C. ESTIMO JR | ARAB NEWS
Published: May 11, 2010 00:47 Updated: May 11, 2010 00:47
RIYADH: Over 24,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom cast their ballots for the Fillipino elections, which drew to a close at 2 p.m. on Monday. The deadline for votes was extended by one hour following instructions from Manila where voting was also extended by an hour.
Filipino Ambassador Antonio P. Villamor thanked all who supported the Philippines Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV), including employers who provided transportation for their employees to visit polling stations.
Altogether 24,093 OFWs — or 22.37 percent of the 111,952 registered voters in the Kingdom — cast their ballots.
Vice Consul Roussel Reyes, in charge of the OAV at the Philippine Embassy, said a total of 11,827 OFWs — or 22.37 percent of Riyadh ’s 52,869 registered voters — participated in the elections. He added that the voter turnout was much larger than in 2007 when only around eight percent of voters exercised their democratic rights.
In Jeddah, Consul Leo Tito L. Ausan Jr. said 7,292 OFWs — or 19.7 percent of the city’s 37,083 registered voters — voted. Despite the low turnout, officials say the ballot was a success. It has been honest, credible, fair and very peaceful. “Considering the problems which the OFWs or overseas absentee voters faced, the number of registered OFWs who voted is satisfactory,” said Ausan.
Labor Attaché Des T. Dicang of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in the Eastern region also expressed satisfaction at the turnout, which totaled 4,974 — or 21 percent of the region’s 22,000 registered voters.
“Voter turnout was low, but high compared to other GCC countries where there is a large concentration of OFWs," he said.
Asked why the number of voters was much smaller than the total number of registered OFW voters in the Kingdom, the diplomats pointed to several reasons, including distance or accessibility, lack of transportation, the limited number of polling stations and time constraints.
Ambassador Antonio P. Villamor earlier told Arab News that there were Fillipino nationals living and working across the Kingdom. “For this reason, there is a need for a mass transport system in which traveling would be fast and cheap,” he said. Requests for more polling stations were earlier rejected by the Commission on Elections (Comelec). There were four polling stations in the Kingdom — the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, the International Philippine School in Alkhobar (IPSA), the Philippine International School in Buraidah (PISB) and the Philippines' Consulate General in Jeddah