By Hannah Torregoza
Reelectionist Senator Cynthia Villar on Sunday reminded Filipinos living and working abroad to exercise their right to vote.
Villar, who is seeking another six-year term in the Senate, made the call as the month-long overseas absentee voting (OAV) opens in 85 Philippine posts in countries around the world.
“I urge our kababayan overseas to make sure their voices are heard and elect the persons that will continue to work for the protection and well-being of overseas Filipinos and their families,” Villar said in a statement.
Given the significant contribution of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the country’s economy, the senator said it was only right that they are given the opportunity to take part in electing the country’s leaders and policy makers even if they are abroad.
Villar, likewise, lauded the report indicating the rising number of overseas Filipinos participating in OAV.
“We are very glad that more and more OFWs are taking an active role. Patunay lamang ito ng kanilang malasakit para sa kinabukasan ng ating bayan, (This only proves their concern for the future of our nation),” Villar said.
Figures from the Comelec Overseas Voting Office show that there are 1.8 million registered voters for OAV, the highest concentration of which are in the Middle East and African Region, followed by the North and Latin American Regions, Asia Pacific Region, and European Region.
The senator and her husband, former Senate President Manny Villar, are known supporters of OFWs. Villar recalled that they built the first house for an OFW when they were starting a Camella residence project.
The Villars are also known for sponsoring the annual holding of the OFW and Family Summit attended by more than 5,000 OFWs and their dependents. In this gathering, OFWs learn from discussions on different topics such as financial literacy, starting a business, illegal recruitment and scams.
Since the first summit held eight years ago, many OFW families have won house and lot, and livelihood showcases.
Also under Villlar’s OFW program are the repatriation of distressed OFWs; the grant of livelihood, financial and medical assistance; the grant of the start up sari-sari store package; and the holding of training programs to help OFWs start anew after repatriation.
The lawmaker has also partnered with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in recognizing the outstanding scholastic achievement of children of OFWs through Gawad Anak OFW.