CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Worldwide election forum in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (SE): Overseas Filipinos and their families from 14 countries took part in a worldwide consultation in Hong Kong on the upcoming presidential election on March 13.

The day featured a forum with Makabayan senatorial candidate, Neri Colmenares, and nominees from the Migrante Partylist.

The event opened with a Mass celebrated by Father Franco Mella. Then Colmenares, together with Garry Martinez and a former migrant worker in Hong Kong, Caridad Bachiller, did a tour of haunts around Central frequented by migrant workers on Sundays.

In a lively session interspersed by cultural performances, the three were joined in a leaders’ forum by representatives from around 100 workers’ organisations to present their election platforms and answer questions.

Livestreamed on Twitter and Facebook, the forum drew in people from Hong Kong, the United States of America, Canada, The Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, Macau, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and The Philippines.

They sent in questions pertaining to issues relevant to Filipinos working overseas, as well as asking for clarifications on the election platforms of the three candidates.

During the forum, most questions fired at the three candidates revolved around the major issues faced by migrant workers in their lives.

A hot topic was the development of decent jobs and the provision of social services in The Philippines to curb ever-increasing flow of forced migration.

The case of convicted drug mule, Mary Jane Veloso, got a good airing, as did corruption, relief programmes for victims of calamities and the bullet-planting scam at Manila airport.

The overseas employment certificate, which is regarded as unnecessary by many, also drew a lot of questions.

Filipinos overseas are set to begin the voting season on April 9. It will run up to the election day itself on May 9 and in Hong Kong will be held at the Bayanihan Centre in Kennedy Town.

Vicky Casia-Cabantac, the chairperson of Migrante Hong Kong and the organiser of the event, said she believes that the votes of people living overseas do have some significance.

She also expressed concern at the lack of effort by major national candidates in visiting countries where significant numbers of Filipinos work, which she believes reflects a lack of interest in their well-being and situation.

Casia-Cabantac said that they decided to open the event in Hong Kong to Filipinos in other countries, as they think that opportunities for them to express their views to candidates running for national posts are rare.

“We are more than the remittances we send,” Casia-Cabantac said. “We are a force in the electoral arena and we assert our integral place in the building of a country that we want.”

Eman Villanueva, from the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said he believes the current government and its predecessors do not regard Filipinos overseas as important, as budgets for the Overseas Absentee Voting have always been woefully inadequate.

He said that this means that there is not enough support to enable the political participation of Filipino workers overseas in the elections.

 

He criticised the budget allocated to the election process in Hong Kong, saying that it has resulted in less resources being available for promotion than are needed, leaving a shortage of voting machines and staff, which is directly related to the low voter turnout.

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