Benefit, risks of overseas online voting | Inquirer Opinion

Benefit, risks of overseas online voting

Just recently, on May 17, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) approved internet or online voting for registered Filipino voters abroad for the 2025 midterm elections, to increase voter turnout overseas.

According to Comelec chair George Garcia, spending P411 million that results in only a 39-percent voter turnout is “not value for money.” As someone who has been directly involved in the conduct of overseas voters’ registration and voting since it was first implemented in 2004 as part of the Philippine consulate general or embassy personnel, I see the merit in Garcia’s observation.

For many overseas Filipinos, it isn’t always easy to go to the nearest Philippine Embassy or consulate general, which in many cases would involve traveling by train or plane, and even staying overnight with a friend or in a hotel.


While voting by mail has been implemented, many of our kababayans abroad tend to change their residence from time to time. If they do not update this information, they won’t be able to receive their ballots. Newly registered overseas voters who may have registered early (as in this year) are also likely to have changed address by the time the 30-day overseas voting period begins in 2025 for the midterm elections.


To the credit of our diplomatic posts abroad, they do make an earnest effort to contact registered voters in their jurisdiction to ensure that their ballots are sent to the right address. We are talking here of thousands who need to be followed up on, and that’s assuming that their contact information with our diplomatic posts are up to date. This is complemented by information drives to remind registered overseas voters about updating their residence address.

But circumstances for these overseas voters may be such that this chore is the least of their priorities amid more pressing concerns.

Based on first-hand experience and observation, I believe that this Comelec initiative, to implement online overseas voting, is a step in the right direction. Allowing Filipino overseas voters to vote using electronic and internet-based technology will definitely help improve voter turnout and cut down costs.

However, there are risks involved when it comes to any activity or transaction conducted online or over the internet. Considering the sensitivity and the implications of a compromised electoral process, it is important to ensure that the benefits of online overseas voting far outweigh its risks. It is therefore vital that measures and safeguards are in place to mitigate those risks and secure the credibility of the overseas voting process and procedures.

Personally, I am all for online overseas voting as this will help enfranchise our fellow Filipinos overseas, and give them a voice to determine the leadership and the direction our country should be taking. Considering the valuable contribution of this sector to the growth of our economy, it is only fitting that efforts are made to recognize the challenges they face, with measures put in place to make it easier for them to cast their votes. Adequate focus should now be given to ensuring that the risks are minimized and effective safeguards are developed.

In this regard, the more pressing question now is if there is sufficient time between now and 2025 to put all these safeguards in place. Perhaps with 96 Philippine diplomatic posts tasked to carry out overseas voting, the Comelec can do a pilot project with select embassies and consulates to test the security and viability of the systems to be used, so they can be fine-tuned to become more effective and secure for the next presidential elections.



Moira G. Gallaga served three Philippine presidents as presidential protocol officer, and was posted as a diplomat at the Philippine consulate general in Los Angeles, and the Philippine Embassy in Washington.

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TAGS: Comelec, Commentary, online, Voting

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