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Thursday, January 22, 2015

OFF with their heads



IMAGINE just half of the 12 million Filipinos as a unified voting bloc.
Then consider that each Overseas Filipino holds sway over the decision of family members receiving remittances, especially during Christmas and enrollment seasons.
If one Overseas Filipino has at least two relatives at home of voting age, this influential electoral block – Overseas Filipinos and their Families (OFF)–would swell to 10 million votes that could put corrupt politicians’ heads on the chopping block.
In 2010, swept into power by an outpouring of grief and sympathy from the death of his mother, former President Cory–and the magic of the PCOS machines, Mr. Benigno S. Aquino 3rd became president. He got 15,208,678 votes – 5,720,841 more than the Joseph Estrada.
In 2010, Then Mayor Jejomar Binay beat the Liberal Party vice-presidential candidate by a narrow margin: Binay, who ran under the PDD-Laban banner, got 14,645,574 (41.65%) to Mar Roxas’ 13,918.490 (39.58%).
Appointed Interior Secretary by PNoy, Manuel Roxas II’s electoral protest against Vice President Jejomar Binay remains pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) four years after the vice presidential race.
In an exclusive interview with Undersecretary Rafael E. Seguis – who is the Chairman of the Overseas Voting Secretariat – Seguis said that they are targeting a total of two million Overseas Filipinos to register and vote for the 2016 presidential elections.
Seguis is confident that they will reach their target.
This month, the OVS says it has set two historical milestones for the 2014 OV registration: First, for the month of May 2014, a total of 18,631 new overseas voters registered, 111% higher than the first month of overseas voter registration for the 2013 Senatorial elections; 64% more than the 2010 Presidential elections and more than 630% higher than the 2007 Senatorial elections.
The Second milestone is the 7.5% increase over the “record breaking performance of last May, bringing the two month total (April-May) to 38,670.
The OVS report states that “(W)hen added to the existing accumulated overseas voter stock of 975,263, the one million registered overseas voter mark is broken by the total of 1,013,933.” (Emphasis on the report)
What can more than a million votes do?
In the case of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, it was victory over the popular Fernando Poe, Jr. One million votes would have gotten Roxas over the hump and trump the current Vice President. In the presidential election of 2004, the difference between the votes cast for Arroyo and FJP was over a million votes – 1,123,576.
How about five million votes?
If – and this is a BIG “IF,” half of the 10 million votes (of Overseas Filipinos and their relatives) are cast for the presidential candidate, senators and party-list representatives that they perceive represent their interests, then Overseas Filipinos and their Families (OFF) can indeed be game changers. They can OFF candidates who incessantly raid the national coffers and pocket the people’s money.
Overseas Filipinos should convey their voting preferences to their family members. But only after examining the details of what each presidential, senatorial or party-list representative has to offer to ensure that:
1) Filipinos would be able to find decent paying jobs in the Philippines that will allow them to stay home instead of going abroad. For example, the Nursing Law of 2002, or Republic Act 9173, pegs the floor pay of public nurses at Salary Grade 15 or a monthly rate of at least P22,688. However, the law is violated by government hospitals themselves for lack of funds. Even the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. is paying their nurses only about P15,000 monthly. Private sector nurses suffer more for being paid less. And to get into paid employment, nurses usually volunteer (or work without wages) simply to gain experience.
2) The government will adopt measures that would elevate the skills of Filipino workers and professionals to world class levels. TESDA and CHED should ensure that their qualifications framework meet the standards of the countries of traditional migration destination including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US as well as the European union and, closer to home the ASEAN countries.
Fact: Filipino professionals and skilled workers have to accept jobs that are not at par with their qualifications or credentials, preventing them from practicing their occupations overseas. Nurses bound for U.S. have to take the NCLEX; those choosing Australia must complete the bridging course; then the Competency Assessment Program of New Zealand and UK’s Overseas Nursing Program. The same goes true with Engineers, Architects, Accountants, and Teachers.
Yet, where to the billions of pesos in public funds – taxes that you and I pay – go? Billions are pocketed by politicians and their cohorts through overpriced infrastructure and “development” projects.
Beyond the reach and riches of politicians greedy for power and accumulating wealth by virtue of their elected positions (passed on to their sons, daughters, wives, mistresses, nieces and nephews) Overseas Filipinos would usher in a government that would be truly answerable to the people.
With their votes, Overseas Filipinos and their relatives at home would be able to have their Boses, (voices) heard instead of being paid lip-service as “Bosses” kuno of elected officials.
Let’s turn the corruption switch to OFF.

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