We in the Philippines often attribute the low participation rates of overseas Filipinos in the OAV system to a lack of information or – more often – to some generalization like ‘apathy’. Meeting with overseas absentee voters in Hawaii recently, however, revealed to me that at least some Filipinos abroad are far from apathetic. Most, in fact, feel very strongly about elections in the Philippines; and the feeling is one of
disgust disappointment. More specifically, they are disappointed at what they perceive to be the quality of the people running for office.
And just like the Americans they live amongst and whose culture they have imbibed, overseas Filipinos when faced with what they perceive to be a lack of choice, decide not to choose at all.
Naturally, I have no truck with this sort of thinking either. I believe that overseas voters have the responsibility to help uplift the quality of voter participation by participating themselves. With more than half-a-million OAVoters, they have the sheer numerical power to create a President if they really wanted to. Instead of wasting that power, they ought to use their numbers to show politicians that they are a force to be reckoned with and that they will not stand for mediocre candidates.
I hope that we can spread that message around.