ucanews.com reporter, Manila
Updated: April 12, 2016 11:09 AM GMT
Government workers prepare ballots for use in the 2016 Philippine national elections. (Photo by Mike Taboy)
A Catholic bishop urged Filipinos abroad to vote for candidates who promote the welfare of migrants, as absentee voting for this year's national elections starts.
More than a million Filipinos — 1,326,728 land-based and 49,339 sea-based — have registered for overseas absentee voting in this year's elections.
"Choose government officials who have programs to create jobs at home," said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, head of the bishops' Commission on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
He urged Filipinos to choose candidates who protect migrant workers from "illegal recruitment, human traffickers, and syndicated scams."
"Prosecute all those who abused, falsely accused, and extorted our [overseas Filipino workers]," the prelate said.
In a pastoral letter sent to Catholic chaplains and pastoral workers abroad, Bishop Santos reminded Filipino migrants that voting is "not only a right but also a responsibility."
"We have the freedom to vote. Let us not set this aside. Let us not waste it. To vote is a right that we should perform," the prelate said.
"Our vote is our future. This is for us. … We will be the ones who will reap and be affected by whoever it is that we place in government," he said.
Filipinos abroad began voting for candidates for president, vice president, senators, and party-list representatives on April 9.
The Commission on Elections is targeting an 80 percent voter turnout for overseas absentee voting this year, said James Jimenez, spokesman of the poll body.
During the 2010 elections, voter turnout was 26 percent, while in 2013 it was only 16 percent, Jimenez said.
As of April 11, some 18,000 Filipinos abroad had already cast their votes, with Hong Kong having the largest turnout, reported the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said the number of votes from Filipinos overseas are considered "game-changers" in the country's elections.
About 10 million Filipinos or a 10th of the entire population work or reside abroad.
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