How 'TNTs' can enlist for 2010 polls

Veronica Uy
First Posted 15:27:00 02/14/2009

MANILA, Philippines -- Filipinos overseas whose immigration status in their host country is irregular like the so-called "tago ng tago" (TNT, always hiding) need to bring only some form of identification so that they can be enlisted for the 2010 national and senatorial elections, Elections Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer said.

"The passport is an important source of identification. The important thing is an evidence to establish their identity," he said.

In a related development, foreign affairs spokesman Bayani Mangibin denied reports that the Department of Foreign Affairs and its posts here and abroad are forcing overseas Filipinos to register for the overseas absentee voting (OAV) by blackmailing them and withholding their passport applications until they register. He also denied that a registration fee of P75 is charged for every applicant.

"We deny that. That is not true," he said of the reports.

However, Mangibin admitted that some DFA personnel try to convince OFWs to register, but only because they feel that it is every Filipino's civic duty to participate in the electoral process.

Documented OFWs are those with a valid employment contract that passed through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

"Whether documented or not, we treat all Filipinos abroad equally, although for the undocumented, we usually try to convince them to regularize their stay abroad," he said.

But Ronnie Abeto, a Filipino who works in Saudi Arabia and helps fellow Filipinos in trouble, said employers of Filipino household service workers usually hold the latter's passports for the duration of the employment.

Mangibin, who was previously posted as ambassador to Libya, said the Philippine embassy in Tripoli issues an embassy ID card to every Filipino who registers with them as soon as they arrive there. He suggested that Filipinos elsewhere go to the nearest agency register their presence there.

"Even without a passport, an undocumented Filipino worker can go to the embassy or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office for proper representation," he said. Both offices can then issue a certification of identity which can be used to enlist for the 2010 elections.

Mangibin also belied the impression that once undocumented OFWs go to the embassy, their status would be revealed to authorities of the host country so that they would be deported back to the Philippines.

"Hindi kami nagsusumbong (We don't tell on them). In fact, we facilitate their regularization when the host government implements their amnesty program for irregular migrants," he said.

The OAV registration has already started February 1 and will end August 31, 2009. The Commission on Elections and the DFA's OAV Secretariat are targeting some 600,000 more to register, so that a total of one million will be on the list of OAV voters by election time.

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