The Manila Times : Marcos courts votes of OFWs

2 April 2022

By Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times

SURVEY frontrunner Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Friday courted millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from 35 different countries ahead of the May 9, 2022 elections.

At the miting de avance at the Resorts World Manila in Pasay City, Marcos met some OFWs who work or now live overseas.

Those who were not physically present at the gathering joined via Zoom.

"For the first time in the country's political history, there will be a large-scale and comprehensive miting de avance for OFWs initiated by a presidential poll leader," Thompson Lantion, secretary general of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP), said.

Saidah Tabao Pukunum, chairman of PFP-OFW International Affairs, said there are 10 million Filipinos living or working abroad.

Of this number, 1.7 million are registered voters who will be part of the absentee voting from April 10 to May 9, Election Day.

Overseas voters may only vote for national candidates, namely president, vice president, 12 senators and a party-list group.

They will vote either by mailing or personally casting their ballot at 93 Philippine diplomatic posts overseas.

Among the countries with a huge number of OFWs who attended the meeting with Marcos are Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Cambodia, Taiwan, Turkey, Cyprus, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Russia, Armenia, Spain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Bahrain, Israel, Canada and Chile.

Jeremy Harry Amar, president of PFP-OFW International Affairs, said apart from the 35 countries with OFWs, most of the overseas workers are also in various states, provinces or regions, such as the six emirates in the UAE — Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Um Al Quwain, Sharjah, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimai.

OFWs from Rome and Milan in Italy, Jeddah and Riyadh in the KSA, states in the United States and provinces in Canada such as Winnipeg, Vancouver and Toronto also attended the event.

In the 2016 race for vice president, Marcos won the month-long overseas absentee voting, where he gained 176,669 over his closest rival, Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo, who got 89,935 votes.

The running mate of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio had said he supports the creation of a separate department for migrant workers.

According to him, there is a need to streamline agencies that will only focus on local workers and OFWs.

"The ideal is that nobody has to go, that we have enough jobs here in the Philippines. Hindi na kailangan magbyahe sa (There will be no need to travel and work) abroad, not by necessity anyway, that they have a choice to remain here in the Philippines," Marcos had said.

"The ideal is to bring them all home if they want to come home. But we are a long way from that," he added.

In December 2021, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the measure establishing the Department of Migrant Workers, which is dedicated to overseeing the affairs and protecting the rights of millions of OFWs.

The Department of Migrant Workers is established to regulate the recruitment, employment and deployment of OFWs and launch investigations and file cases concerning illegal recruitment and human trafficking involving OFWs.

It is expected to benefit an estimated 2.2 million Filipinos abroad, based on the 2019 Survey on Overseas Filipinos released in 2020 by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Robredo went local also on Friday, holding a dialogue with the Bamboo Landers Multi-Sectoral Rural Workers Association in Buadiposo-Buntong, Lanao del Sur, asking for the community's and the province's support in order for her to win next month's elections where she is also running for president.

A significant advantage to winning in the area, according to her, is her regular visits.

She mentioned that she was the only candidate who visited the province in 2016.

"Sampung beses ako dito bumalik. Sampung beses dahil marami po tayo ditong project (I came back here ten times. Because there are so many projects here)," Robredo said.

She also mentioned efforts related to the pandemic and the Marawi siege.

Robredo said she is sure that what she achieved in 2016 was a clean victory, though it was tainted with accusations of cheating leveled by her closest rival, Marcos.

She requested the people from the community to replicate the event.

"Noong 2016, nanalo ako dito. Kung naalala n'yo, kinasuhan pa po ako na kinukuwestyon 'yung resulta dito sa Lanao del Sur kasi nandaya daw ako dito. Kayo 'yung makakapagsabi, kayo 'yung makakapagsabi na walang nandaya rito (In 2016, I received the most votes in this province. If you recall, a complaint was filed against me in Lanao del Sur, challenging the results of the ballots because they said I cheated. You're the only ones who can determine whether there's been cheating here)," Robredo said.

She added that apart from her visits, she has a good track record and enough proof to back it up and persuade people to vote for her.

The vice president promised that if she got the job, she would visit all of Lanao del Sur's communities and provide them with good governance.

"Kami po ang magiging pangatlong bahay mo, Madam (Madam, we'll be your third home)," the people said.

In February 2022, the Office of the Vice President, through its Sustainable Livelihood and Training Program, handed out a livelihood subsidy of P257,265 to the Bamboo Landers Multi-Sectoral Rural Workers Association for the production of garments.

WITH A REPORTFROM MOISES CRUZ