Little interest for voting among Filipinos

Updated 24 April 2013

Little interest for voting among Filipinos

The enthusiasm that was widespread among the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) some 10 years ago to participate in the election of public officials seems to have dwindled with the passage of time. At the forefront then were the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) conveners, who encouraged and coordinated with the compatriots for timely and convenient voting.
The clamor for voting rights had made the Philippine government send a delegation to hold talks with OFWs in the Kingdom. The delegation had included then Rep. Augusto Syjuco, and Senators Franklin Drilon, Edgardo Angara, Panfilo Lacson and Tito Sotto. The OFWs’ wish to vote was subsequently granted.
A decade on, any such clamor has disappear, and any enthusiasm noticeable at the time among Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia has shrunk considerably.
Even the OAV conveners are nowhere to be seen. They should be among those drawing fellow OFWs to the embassy for vote to avoid the last-minute rush on May 13, the last day of OAV voting in the Kingdom and other countries.
Lamenting the situation, Alex Bello, section head at an electrical company’s purchasing department and one of the original OAV conveners, told Arab News that he cannot force them to come to vote.
“I am still an advocate of the Filipinos' right to suffrage, but I can only urge my compatriots to exercise their right to vote. Forcing them is another thing,” he said. Among the original OAV conveners included Rashid Fabricante, Ellen Sana, Jun Aguilar, Mike Bolos, Isagani Manalo and Joey Badong.
A visit to the embassy during voting hours last Sunday showed that except for the volunteers, those who stood smiling from ear to ear, and who enthusiastically manned the polls, there was hardly any voter.
A random survey among OFWs showed that they have at least three main reasons why they have not yet gone to the polls, work pressure being one of them. The other excuse they cite for not going to vote included pressing petty problems at home, and their views about their government back in Philippines not doing enough for the poor.
“We want to vote, of course. But there’s just much work that we can’t go to the embassy during office hours. When we get out of the office in the afternoon, the embassy is already closed,” said Eric P. Asi who works as a senior engineer for an electrical company and that there is plenty of time left.
“I and my better half can vote in a few minutes once we go to the embassy to vote during the weekend,” he said.
Another OFW working for an electrical company said that many Filipinos in the Kingdom’s capital have family problems taking care of which they consider more important than going to the embassy to cast their votes.
“Such problems include lack of money to pay for all financial obligations either in the Kingdom or in the Philippines. This inevitably detracts from their enthusiasm to exercise their right to vote,” he said, adding that he’ll try to explain to them the importance of voting.
Others claim that they had been indifferent to participate to vote because even if the economy had shown improvement, the condition of poor Filipinos had not improved.
“Despite claims that corruption had been greatly reduced under the current administration, it still exists in high places in the government. In fact, I have just read that those benefitting at the Bureau of Customs are up against the proposal of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon to abolish it,” an OFW belonging to a militant group said.
Ambassador Ezzedin H. Tago has been making appeals to the concerned OFWs to exercise their right to vote because they had worked hard for it.
The Filipino envoy, however, praised some ailing OFWs who appeared at the embassy to vote. They included Joseph Futad Que, a heart attack survivor; Juanito N. Emperador (who said, “It’s the right of every Filipino to vote”); and Lolito B. Torrano who traveled 150 kilometers from Al Kharj to Riyadh to vote.
The embassy announced that the first week of automated elections in Riyadh has been successful. A total of 332 voted on the 7th day of elections in Riyadh, bringing the total voter turnout to 1,326 during the first week of elections.
The first figures for the week of voting in Riyadh coincided with the report of the OAV Secretariat of the Department of Foreign Affairs placing the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh on Top 5 in rank overall among all Foreign Service Posts abroad as of April 18.

Saudi Arabia to send Syrians an additional $100 million of humanitarian aid

Updated 26 April 2018

Saudi Arabia to send Syrians an additional $100 million of humanitarian aid

  • Total relief provided by the Kingdom since the war began now stands at about $1billion
  • Latest package announced by Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir at conference in Brussels

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will provide an additional $100 million of humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of the people of Syria, through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.

The announcement of the latest aid package was made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir on April 25 at an international conference on the future of Syria and the region, held in the Belgian capital Brussels. He pointed out that the meeting comes after the suspected chemical attack in the city of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, which killed dozens of civilians, including women and children.

“The world is facing a regime allied with terrorist militias who believe that spreading atrocities and committing crimes will bring victory to it, and that war crimes are bearing fruit,” said Al-Jubeir. “In addition to bombing civilians with explosive barrels, the policies of starvation and siege, ethnic and sectarian cleansing, and the demographic change of Syrian cities and towns, its use of chemical weapons have shocked the entire world.”

He said that the only acceptable solution to the Syrian crisis is a peaceful political resolution, and that Saudi Arabia has been working to achieve this since the crisis began, while also working with others to end the continuing human tragedy in the war-torn country.

The Kingdom has played a role in unifying the ranks of the Syrian opposition and encouraging them to speak with one voice, he added. After the Riyadh 1 Conference in 2015, Saudi Arabia hosted the Riyadh 2 conference for the Syrian opposition in November 2017, which succeeded in unifying the factions and establishing a negotiating body to take part in the rounds of talks held since then, earning praise from the United Nations.

The foreign minister also reiterated his country’s support for the efforts of the UN secretary-general’s envoy, Stephan de Mistura, to resume negotiations between all sides of the conflict.

“The Kingdom hopes that the agreements endorsed by the international resolutions on the ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid to its beneficiaries will be implemented throughout Syria, regardless of their ethnic, religious, sectarian or political affiliations, and calls for the speedy release of detainees and abductees and clarifying the situation of those absent,” said Al-Jubeir. “It also renews its demand to punish individuals and institutions for war crimes and to prevent their impunity.”

He added that the worsening humanitarian crisis affecting refugees inside and outside of Syria should add to the urgency of finding a political solution and resuming the negotiating process as soon as possible.

Since the war began, the Kingdom has taken in about two and a half million Syrians and treats them like its own citizens, Al-Jubeir said, providing them with free health care, work and education. Saudi universities and schools have more than 140,000 Syrian students. He added that Saudi Arabia is also supporting and helping to care for of millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, in coordination with the governments of those countries. The humanitarian assistance provided so far totals about $1 billion.