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31 March 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a bid to boost overseas voters’ participation in the May 2016 national elections, the Philippine Embassy held the first-ever Overseas Voter’s Education Forum on 30 March 2016 at the Romulo Hall.

The Forum aimed to educate overseas voters about the voting process and the platforms of presidential and vice-presidential candidates, specifically with regard to the issues and concerns that affect the Filipino diaspora community in the United States.

In his opening remarks, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. noted the low turnout rate among overseas voters in the past elections.

“The presidential election in 2010 yielded a turnout rate of 25.99 percent, a far cry from the 65 percent rate six years before.  It was a disturbing trend that prompted a congressional inquiry, multi-sectoral consultations, and finally, an amendment to the overseas voting law that removed the affidavit of return requirement, an extension of the registration period, and introduction of automated elections in selected voting stations,” Ambassador Cuisia recounted.

“That the Philippine State continues to innovate the overseas voting system in order to encourage higher voter turnout and maintain the sanctity of the ballot, therefore speaks a lot about its determination to enfranchise its citizens living and working abroad. This is a sacred commitment enshrined in law and has been fully demonstrated every election cycle since 2004. It should be recalled, however, that it was the overseas Filipino community—your community—that ignited and turned this commitment into action,” the envoy reminded the audience.

“We call on you now, the 176,064 registered Filipino overseas voters in the United States of America, to exercise the right you fought for, and cast your ballot,” Ambassador Cuisia added.

First Secretary and Consul Katrina Borja-Martin gave a walkthrough of the voting process, which, for the overseas voters in the United States, consists of the modified postal voting, automated election system. Consul Borja-Martin fielded questions on voter qualifications, the proper way to fill out and submit the ballot, the roles of the different electoral boards, security safeguards, and the methods of transmitting election returns to the national canvassing committee in the Philippines.

She invited the members of the voting public to observe the conduct of the elections, which will officially begin for overseas voters on 09 April 2016 and end on 09 May 2016.

For the first time, the Embassy showed video recorded messages from presidential and vice-presidential candidates who responded to the Embassy’s invitation to participate in the Forum.

“This novel initiative provides a platform for presidential and vice-presidential aspirants to directly address our overseas voters in the United States who continue to have a stake in the future of our country,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

The attendees expressed appreciation for the Forum and cited the learnings they gained from the program.

“I think this is something that is definitely worth doing again in the future. I am sure that the average Filipino in the area has so many questions in their minds and this would be the appropriate forum to voice them out, get the answers and challenge the Government,” community leader Judith Francia-Reyes remarked.

Among the audience was young Filipino and Smitu Kathari Fellow Annabel Perreras who takes pride in the country’s policy and legislative framework that recognizes and actualizes the overseas Filipino’s fundamental right to vote.

Speaking about the Forum, Annabel commented, “It was so useful and informative for me.”

The Overseas Voter’s Education Forum is a project spearheaded by the Embassy and will be replicated by the Consulates General across the United States in the coming days.

“With the 2016 elections, we turn to a new page of the Philippine story. It is our duty as Filipino citizens to keep this story moving ever forward towards the attainment of peace, security and prosperity. We can do this only by choosing our leaders wisely, and with the unwavering belief in the rightness of democracy,” Ambassador Cuisia concluded. ###

31 March 2016

“Exercise the right you fought for”: Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. calls on the more than 170,000 registered overseas Filipino voters in the US to participate in the upcoming national elections.

31 March 2016

First Secretary and Consul Katrina Borja-Martin demonstrates how to access on the Embassy website the lists of certified overseas voters during the first-ever Overseas Voters’ Education Forum on 30 March 2016 at Romulo Hall, Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C.