Online voting, finally | Inquirer Opinion

Online voting, finally

/ 05:03 AM April 13, 2024

With a perennially low turnout in overseas absentee voting in previous elections, as well as the chaotic process seen in the 2022 national polls, it is a no-brainer for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to finally push online voting to make it easier for Filipinos all over the world to exercise their right of suffrage.

In May last year, the Comelec announced that it had “approved” internet voting for the 2025 national and local elections to entice more overseas Filipinos to register and vote. The poll body was already creating the “roadmap” for this process, it added.

Back then, Comelec chair George Erwin Garcia said that the low voter turnout was simply “not value for money,” and that the dismal 39-percent turnout in the 2022 polls, though the highest in history, was not worth the P411 million spent for the exercise. According to the Comelec, only about 600,000 of some 1.6 million registered Filipino overseas voters cast their ballots in the last elections.

Secrecy and sanctity

“Why are not so many [of them] voting personally or by mail? Maybe they need another mode,” Garcia said.


Under Republic Act No. 9189 or “The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003,” registered overseas Filipinos are allowed to vote in person at the Philippine embassy, consulate, or other Comelec-accredited polling place in their host country, or mail their ballot to the same foreign service offices.

While Garcia appealed in 2022 for Congress to allow electronic voting, the poll body went ahead and approved online voting, citing a provision in RA 9189 which allows the Comelec to “study the use of electronic mail, internet, or other secured networks” for absentee voting. It also cited RA 10590, or “The Overseas Voting Act of 2013,” which amended the previous law. The latter provides that the commission “may explore other more efficient, reliable, and secure modes or systems, ensuring the secrecy and sanctity of the entire process, whether paper-based, electronic-based, or internet-based technology, or such other latest technology available …”

Joint venture

Backed by such laws, the Comelec went ahead with bidding out the Secure Electronic Transmission Services for overseas absentee voting and awarded the P1.42 billion project to a joint venture of iOne Resources Inc. and Ardent Networks Inc. on April 5.

Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco said online voting would save taxpayer money and ensure a higher turnout. “It will also serve as the key in lowering our expenses in overseas voting. If you recall, we have to transport voting machines, ballots, and other election paraphernalia, and train people” to man the overseas voting precincts, he added.


Indeed, difficulties in shipping the election materials in the last elections delayed voting in several countries, while too few voting machines caused chaos at the consulate in Hong Kong as thousands of Filipino voters could not immediately be accommodated.

First-time voters

With online voting, Laudiangco said Filipinos, wherever they are, particularly seafarers onboard ships, can register their gadgets and vote as long as they have internet connection. Since the Comelec announced its plan to implement online voting, Laudiangco said some 100,000 Filipinos abroad have registered as first-time voters, or activated their registration.


While this is certainly good news, the Comelec must first ensure that it has sound legal basis to proceed with the online voting process to preclude any surprises or challenges along the way. The congressional oversight committee, composed of members of the House and the Senate, must also affirm the Comelec’s authority to implement online voting, and thoroughly scrutinize the process and procedures involved, given the different conditions and circumstances surrounding overseas Filipinos in their host countries.

The most important consideration in this exercise is for the Comelec to ensure the integrity of the votes that will be cast and counted from various places around the world.

‘Equal opportunity’

This is certainly not an easy undertaking, given the systemic problems besetting our elections, the threats lurking in the digital space, the untested electronic voting technology, as well as the probity and capability of all those involved in the electoral process.

A crucial factor to the success of online voting is accessible and adequate information dissemination among overseas Filipinos on the process involved, and how they can be assured that their votes would be accounted for faithfully.

Our overseas absentee voters may only be less than two million, but they still constitute a big chunk of votes that the government must safeguard to ensure that every vote is counted and counted accurately.

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This is the essence of the laws that promised Filipino citizens “equal opportunity” to exercise their fundamental right to choose their leaders back home, while they toil in foreign shores to support their families and keep the national economy afloat.

TAGS: online voting, opinion

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