Dear Fil-Ams, did we miss the chance to make a difference in the Philippine midterm elections?

SUPPORTERS of President Rodrigo Duterte, either from the Philippines or here in America, have always been up in arms in defending the president, fighting against any form of dissent or nonsupport among Filipinos in America who openly criticize the Duterte administration.

Legitimate factual news has been dismissed as “fake news,” despite videos and actual interviews of protesters and man-on-the-street interviews of kababayans who remain vigilant in following the news back home. This midterm election was no different.

However, such vigilance and advocacy seem to have fallen short to make a real difference in the outcome of the midterm election in the Philippines. This is not because there are no protests or criticism of Duterte and his style of governance in the Philippines, but because of the disappointing turnout of votes among eligible Filipino voters in America. We failed to use the legitimate and consequential platform to make our voices heard.

As ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel’s daily newscast “Balitang America” reported on Tuesday, May 21, all Certificates of Canvas (COCs) have been transmitted to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in the Philippines.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. clarified in a statement that the causes of the delayed transmission of COCs, which had hindered the proclamation of winners in both the senatorial and party-list elections, were the four malfunctioning SD cards coming from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Finally, the last replacement card for LA coming in was processed on Monday and all SD cards had been physically delivered to the Embassy on Monday night.

The Embassy also revealed that out of the 228,470 registered voters in the United States, only 39,511 actually voted. This means the dismal turnout was only 17.29 percent.

Looking at the glass half-full, this is an improvement in voter participation compared to the 2013 midterm elections, when the turnout among registered Fil-Am voters was at 10.55 percent.

Think of it, the more than 200,000 registered voters among Filipinos in America could have made a difference in a close election — if only all Fil-Ams exercised their right to vote.

We can blame voter disenfranchisement due to lost ballots, or the inadequate election information campaign to help eligible voters to cast their ballot, or even alleged election irregularities. These are all valid concerns that the Comelec and the Department of Foreign Affairs should look into.

However, these are just parts of the problem. The bigger part of the problem is our own accountability as Filipinos living in America. Have we taken a more pro-active role to make sure we vote? Have we chosen to be dual citizens so we can be eligible to participate in Philippine elections? Have we informed the Philippine Consulate of any changes in our address? Have we inquired when we could expect to get our ballots, and if they have our current address? Have we been more aggressive and pressing for information campaign from our Embassy and Consular offices?

While many of us have been very vocal about our thoughts and prescriptions in helping solve what we deem to be problems in the Philippines online, not enough have translated this advocacy to the platform that truly matters in making a difference: the ballot box.

Hopefully, this midterm election will serve as a wake-up call for us all. It does NOT matter who we support or who we are up against. What matters is that we VOTE, because, at the end of the day, this vote and its strength in numbers will effect real change, not Facebook posts or tweets.

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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