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President Aquino signs into law a consolidated bill amending the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003

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(Image courtesy of Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting Facebook page)

(Image courtesy of Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting Facebook page)

President Benigno S. Aquino III has signed into law a consolidated bill amending the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003, allowing more overseas Filipinos worldwide to cast their votes in Philippine electionsThe Chief Executive signed last May 27 the Republic Act 10590 (An Act Amending Republic Act 9189, Entitled “An Act Providing for a System of Overseas Absentee Voting by Qualified Citizens of the Philippines Abroad, Appropriating Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes.”)

The Act otherwise known as “The Overseas Voting Act of 2013” is a consolidation of Senate Bill 3312 and House Bill 6542.

The Senate and the House of Representatives passed the consolidated measure on February 5, 2013 and February 6, 2013, respectively.

The amendment to Republic Act 9189 will provide easier access to overseas Filipinos through field and mobile registration centers.

Under the law, Overseas Filipino voters may file their application personally at any post abroad or at designated registration centers outside the post or in the Philippines, as approved by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

All applicants shall submit themselves for live capture of their biometrics while the Comelec shall issue an overseas voter identification card to qualified voters.

With the passage of the law, overseas Filipino voters, who are not disqualified by law and at least 18 years of age on the day of elections, may be allowed to cast their votes not only in presidential and midterm elections, but in all national referenda and plebiscites as well.

The new law allows those who have reacquired or retained their Philippine citizenship under Republic Act 9225, otherwise known as the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003 to cast their votes.

Qualified Philippine citizens abroad who have previously registered as voters pursuant to Republic Act No. 8189, otherwise known as the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996, shall apply for certification as overseas voters and for inclusion in the National Registry of Overseas Voters (NROV.)

In case of approval, the Election Officer concerned shall annotate the fact of registration/certification as overseas voter before the voter’s name as appearing in the certified voters’ list and in the voter’s registration records.

The law allows the creation of a Resident Election Registration Board (RERB) to be posted abroad. The RERB will have the power to approve, disapprove, deactivate, reactivate and/or cancel registration records.

The RERB in the Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) shall be based in the main office of the Comelec and shall be composed of a senior official of the Commission as the Chairperson and one (1) member each from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment, whose rank shall not be lower than a division chief or its equivalent.

No member of the RERB shall be related to each other or to an incumbent President, Vice-President, Senator or Member of the House of Representatives representing the party-list system of representation, within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity.

The Comelec shall maintain a National Registry of Overseas Voters or NROV containing the names of registered overseas voters and the posts where they are registered.

“Likewise, the Comelec shall maintain a registry of voters (ROV) per municipality, city or district containing the names of registered overseas voters domiciled therein. The Commission shall provide each and every municipality, city or district with a copy of their respective ROVS for their reference,” the law stated.

The Comelec shall, through the posts cause the publication in a newspaper of general circulation of the place, date and time of the holding of a regular or special national election and the requirements for the participation of qualified citizens of the Philippines abroad, at least six (6) months before the date set for the filing of applications for registration.

The law mandates Comelec to adopt more efficient and reliable technology for onsite remote registration and elections.

The law authorizes the Comelec to establish an Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) tasked specifically to oversee and supervise the effective implementation of the Overseas Voting Act.

It also establishes the Overseas Voting Secretariat under the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist the OFOV, and to direct, coordinate and oversee the participation of the DFA in the implementation of the Overseas Voting Act.

The amount necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act shall be included in the budgets of the Comelec and the DFA in the annual General Appropriations Act.

The Comelec shall promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation and enforcement of the provisions of this Act within sixty (60) days from the effectivity of this act.

This Act shall take effect 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or in at least 2 newspapers of general circulation.

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