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Geneva, Switzerland

March 2003

Onstage at the Palladium

AN EVENING WITH GARY VALENCIANO Philippine megastar and pop idol Gary “Pure Energy” Valenciano will be performing onstage for the Filipino community at the Palladium on Saturday, 5th of April, 2003. Organised by Buklod Kabayan, the dinner-concert will also feature Europe’s No. 1 Filipino showband “Speed Limit”, and a very special guest-- Gabriel Valenciano, the son of the megastar. Gary Valenciano was chosen for the best male performer award at last years’ MTV Pilipinas 2002. He maintains the record of holding the biggest pop concert in Philippine history (about 800,000 in attendance) at the Luneta Park in 1989. Most of his music albums, from “Gary V. Greatest Hits”, “Outside, Looking In”, and “Faces of Love” among others almost always end up in Platinum record citation. His album “Gary V. Interactive” gathered 16 trophies in a single Awit Awards night. Aside from these music accolades, Gary also landed in the list of Ten Outstanding Young Men for the year 2001. He is also the first UNICEF Ambassador of Goodwill for the Philippines and has championed projects for children in the Philippines. Tickets are still available at the following outlets: GenevaManila Express, Hollywood Video Club, Mabuhay Asian Store, Philippine Mission, Bayanihan, Philippine Cultural Center in Geneva, Bahay Kubo restaurant, and Association KAKKAMPI. The show will start at 6:30 in the evening.

Geneva pays tribute to a Filipina! Last 7 March, on the eve of the International Day for Women, the Canton of Geneva paid homage to the courage of a Filipina who lives amongst us. Her name is Lourdes Mijaro, a young woman who has shown courage and determination in overcoming oppression and exploitation. In addition, she had risked being expelled from Switzerland by publicly exposing her suffering and calling for solidarity in her fight for justice. The public tribute was given by Mrs. Fabienne Bugnon, director of the service for the promotion of equality in the Canton of Geneva, during the ceremonies that honored 16 women of different nationalities who live in the Swiss Romand region. The ceremonies were held under the aus-

pices of the Prix “femme exilée, femme engagée” and were attended by over a hundred persons. This two-year old prize aims to bring out from the shadows and to the public the stories of the lives of courageous “exiled” women who now live in Switzerland. These women have all fought for their rights, rose above their sufferings and have given their time not only for their own development but in solidarity with others who continue to fight for justice, despite the constraints of living in a foreign culture and striving to build a personal future. Lourdes is from southern Philippines. She is the eldest of seven children who, typical of Filipino family patterns, took care of her brothers and sisters and gave up a university education in order to assist their

parents in making a living. After working as an assistant nurse with the Red Cross in Manila, she joined the thousands of overseas workers when she found good work as an au pair in Singapore. When her contract finished, she found work with a family in the United Arab Emirates where she was basically a contemporary slave. In this family, she had to clean a house of 25 rooms and take care of five children. Her work started at 6 a.m.and lasted until midnight. All throughout this period, she was malnourished and maltreated, brutalised and oppressed, and worked without any salary. In 1996, during the family’s vacation in Geneva, she was able to gather the help of the hotel staff and the Syndicat sans frontières (continued on page 5)


Sledging at Les Diablerets by: Che-Che Dadivas

A TRIBUTE TO OUR WOMENTHE TRUE BEARERS AND NURTURERS OF THE FILIPINO SOUL Once again, Buklod Kabayan presents its greetings to the Filipino community in Geneva and has the pleasure of offering various information items that are deemed of interest to the community. This includes the dinner-concert of Gary Valenciano that has drawn much interest. Buklod Kabayan is particularly grateful, as this newsletter will be specially benefited by this event. The excursion to Les Diablerets afforded an opportunity to go out together and get to know one another better. In addition, we are fortunate to have been provided with a more detailed explanation concerning the new overseas absentee voting law. We share the sentiment that we in the Geneva region should make full use of this special opportunity to exercise a fundamental right – that of suffrage. As a first step, let us register with our Philippine Consulate in Geneva, and encourage others to do the same. Moreover, March being the time of year when special homage is rendered to women world-wide, we are pleased to feature two Filipinas and a Swiss-based organization of Philippine women; all have contributed much to enhancing the image of our people, particularly the Filipinas. We join in rendering our own tribute to our women – our mothers, sisters and daughters - the true bearers and nurturers of the Filipino soul. We hope that this issue helps us, in this community, to continue to be proud to be a Filipino! (Rody de Guzman)

Buklod Kabayan Published by the Steering Committee of the Filipino Community in Geneva



Consul Frank Cimafranca slip, sliding away

Last March 1, 2003, the Filipino community in Geneva held a one-day winter excursion at Les Diablerets, Switzerland. This event was organized by the Steering Committee of the Filipino Community in Geneva for the purpose of “discovering” other beautiful places in Switzerland. Each one brought their families and one could feel the enthusiasm on their way to the most beautiful glacier of Switzerland, Les Diablerets. Situated 120 km. from the Geneva Airport, Les Diablerets (“Little Devils”) is best known as an all year-round glacier skiing destination. It is also known as the best ski resort in Switzerland with beautiful mountains and wonderful scenery. A perfect place for both beginner and advance skiers. Simply one of the best and awesome inspiring places the world can offer. Before heading to Les Diablerets, we had the opportunity to drop by at Chateau du Chillon at Montreux. We took some pictures at the Chateau and the others went to buy some souvenir items. During the trip, the group was given two options. The first is to ride in a cable car going to the Glaciers. This had been a very exciting and nerveracking experience since they were able to see the Glaciers on the top of the mountain, witnessing such a panoramic view. While others had an adventurous and breathtaking experience at Les Diablerets, sledging downward on a fantastic seven- kilometer run. Everybody was so thrilled to share their so-called misadventures. Labor Attaché Yoly Porschwitz has a “fear of heights”but had managed to ride in a chair lift and had finished the run without any bumps or bruises. Marian Hernandez on the other hand, was so overwhelmed that she didn’t waste any chance to go again for a second round. As for me, it was my first time to be exposed to this kind of winter sport and it seemed like zooming above the clouds. I felt so free and unaware that I had been sledging for more than an hour and I was the last one to finish. But I’m proud to say that I’m the most fulfilled sledger since I had conquered the highest slope that a beginner could ever accomplished. Indeed, the winter excursion at Les Diablerets was a successful and fulfilling adventure for everyone. Aside from seeing the beauty of these places, these experiences had even strengthened the bond among the Filipino Community. And most importantly, it inspired us in lifting up one’s spirit and confidence. Kudos to the organizers led by Ms. Precy Andrews and Mr. Nikki Flores.

CONTRIBUTORS Atty. Cecilia JIMENEZ Articles, opinions, letters to the Editors, and other manuscripts should be in Pilipino or English, typed in MS Word and sent to : The views and opinions expressed by the authors are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Steering Committee of the Filipino Community in Geneva


Buklod Kabayan March 2003

Quote of the Month “No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between states, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences.” Pope John Paul II

NEWSBRIEFS SSS PAYMENTS NOW ACCEPTED IN SWITZERLAND In an orientation on the Philippine Social Security System held last 9 February 2003 at the conference room of the Philippine Mission, SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Corazon de la Paz announced that the SSS, in cooperation with the Philippine Mission to the UN, is now ready to serve overseas Filipinos in Switzerland. According to Ms. de la Paz, Filipinos interested may register as a new member or reactivate their SSS membership by following these simple procedures: 1. Secure an application form (SSS Form OW-1) from the Philippine Mission or Geneva Manila Express, or download from the SSS website: 2. Fill up the form using black ink. Don’t forget to affix your thumbmarks in the space provided. 3. Submit the accomplished form by mail, fax or e-mail, together with any of the following: birth or baptismal certificate or passport. In a few days, a copy of the approved OW-1 will be mailed to your stated address. Once the membership application is approved, payment using the following payment forms: RS-5 for contributions, ML-1 for salary loan payments, REL-9 for housing loan payments can be made through: Geneva Manila Express Rue du Mont Blanc 21, 1st flr. 1201 Geneva Payments may also be sent directly to SSS through registered mail , (checks or postal money orders should be payable to SSS) or through your relatives in the Philippines. Ms. de la Paz also reiterated that a qualified member may avail of the many benefits such as retirement, disability, death, funeral, sickness and maternity and loan privileges like salary, housing and business loans that SSS offers. Later, she also introduced the Flexi-Fund whereby a person having an opportunity to earn more overseas can augment their savings through SSS’ newest program. This is a tax-free provident fund scheme, which is a savings and pension plan rolled into one. All overseas workers paying the maximum contribution under the regular program are eligible to join. The Flexifund has flexible terms - any amount, anytime and has early withdrawal features. It is a riskfree investment as the Fund is invested in fixedincome securities. Any contribution goes to the individual Flexi-fund account.

UGN AYANG B AYAN UGNA BA EST ABLISHED ESTABLISHED UGNAYANG BAYAN, the Secretariat of the Steering Committee of the Filipino Community in Geneva was established last 21 March 2003 to further improve the institutionalization of support services to the Filipino community in Geneva. As the name connotes, UGNAYANG BAYAN will support the link between all the Filipinos in Geneva and other organizations in the spirit of working together for a common goal. Its overall objective is to support the Steering Committee and the community in socio-cultural, educational, humanitarian and related activities and initiatives that will serve members of the Filipino community in Geneva, their families, organizations and friends, in order to: · Promote unity, cooperation, information exchange and a culture of social awareness; · Assist in protecting their rights and well being; · Encourage exchanges with people of the host country and its institutions, to enable them to be better informed and more productive, and be able to share their culture and talents with other members of a multicultural society. The first set of Board of Directors are: Dr. Rodolfo A. de Guzman, Chairperson; Mrs. Aurora Linda B. Cacdac, Secretary; and Mr. Jaime Landicho, Treasurer.

OFW Conference & Trade Exhibit

OVERSEAS ABSENTEE VOTING REGISTRATION ANNOUNCED The Philippine Consulate in Geneva, in pursuant with Republic Act No. 9189, otherwise known as “The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003” has given notice that on May 10, 2004, there will be a regular national election for President, VicePresident, Senators and Party-List Representatives in the Philippines. All qualified Filipino citizens who are not registered as a voter under Republic Act No. 8189, otherwise known as “The Voters Registration Act of 1996”, (the system of continuing registration) are called upon to file an application for registration from 5 May 2003 up to 4 August 2003 at the Philippine Consulate.

CFC program for the poorest of the poor Everybody is invited on 5th of April, Saturday, 2 p.m. at Pope John XXIII Parish church at Petit-Sacconex. Couples for Christ Director Tony Meloto, will present the CFC program for the poorest of the poor in the Philippines. This on-going campaign includes the Gawad Kalinga housing projects, out-ofschool youth programs and other effective and high-impact activities that directly benefit the Filipino poor. The only authentic Filipino restaurant in Geneva

An Overseas Filipinos Worldwide Conference and Trade Exhibit will be held on May 2325 at the SM Megatrade Hall 3 in Mandaluyong City, Philippines. Organized by OFWNet, the three-day event will serve as a forum for overseas Filipinos, their families and colleagues to discuss the best possible means for the reintegration process. These include socioeconomic issues, government policy directions, and business development prospects for OFWs. On the other hand, the trade exhibit will offer various investment opportunities and trade matching activities between OFWs and various business entities, including the franchising industry.

Buklod Kabayan March 2003



BABAYLAN-Switzerland Babaylan-Switzerland is one of the Swiss-based groups that won the Banaag Award in the 2002 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organisations Overseas. It is part of Babaylan-Philippine Women’s Network in Europe. Buklod Kabayan went to Bern to visit one of its leaders and was lucky enough to have a short interview with Ms. Anny Misa Hefti, who is a member of the Executive Board of Babaylan-Switzerland. BK: What does Babaylan mean? Anny Hefti: During pre-Spanish Philippines, communities in the islands were composed of tribes. Like many early cultures, the medicine man was the most important person. He also led religious rites. In pre-colonial Philippines, some tribes had women priestesses called “babaylan”. This shows that even before the Spaniards came, women in the islands have occupied high positions in the community. Calling the network Babaylan is to let the Filipinas’ spirit of long ago live on. BK: How did Babaylan-Philippine Women’s Network start? What are its beginnings? Anny Hefti: Philippine Women’s Network in Europe was an initiative of Philippine women’s groups, women’s organizations and women’s desks in Europe. Babaylan was founded during the First Conference of Filipinas in Europe in Barcelona in September 1992. It was a response to a long felt need by Filipinas living and working in Europe to link together and forge unity to improve their situation while addressing specific issues affecting women. It seeks to develop an effective and liberating support system for Filipinas. BK: Being women migrants, what is your stand point on the issue of migration? Anny Hefti: Babaylan believes that migration is brought about by a combination of socio-cultural, economic and political factors in the Philippines that push women to migrate as well as factors in Europe that pull women to immigrate; the unequal and unjust distribution of wealth and resources in the world, the colonial culture ingrained by decades of western colonization; the Philippine government’s failure to address decisively the problem of poverty and its policies that encourage migration, and the low value of women’s work in the Philippines and in Europe. We believe that Filipinas have common problems that confront them as a woman, a migrant and a Filipina in Europe. Like black migrant populations in Europe, the Filipina also experiences racism and sexual discrimination. Filipinas are employed in low paying “reproductive work”, receive low salary, experience de-skilling and intellectual stagnation because of unrecognized educational qualifications enhanced by language difficulty. BK: What are the aims and objectives of Babaylan? Anny Hefti: Our aims and objectives are as follows: 1. Promote women’s empowerment and full participation in development processes through sharing of experiences, information and resources;


Buklod Kabayan March 2003

2. Promote a liberating education program for women to tackle issues affecting women in Europe and in the Philippines; 3. Strengthen Philippine women’s groups networking on the national level; 4. Establish links of support with women’s groups of other nationalities in Europe and in the Philippines; 5. Project our voices through effective lobby work at all planning and policy-making levels and representation in the Philippine government; 6. Provide channels for campaign on women issues; 7. Mobilize participation and action among Filipinas through biennial general assembly meetings; 8. Promote communication channels and information exchange among Filipinas in Europe and in the Philippines by setting up a data bank. BK: What do you do to pursue these aims: Anny Hefti: We try to pursue these aims: 1. Through the network, sharing of experiences and current events from each country, we are updated with the situation of other Filipinas in Europe. 2. Education of Filipinas on women’s issues are best done through workshops. We hope to empower Filipinas offering them “Basic and Intermediate Orientation courses”. The basic course will delve on the roots of exploitation of Filipinas, and organizing efforts focusing on women’s issues. The intermediate course will deepen discussion on feminist theories and concepts in the Philippine setting, types of oppression, racism and other issues. The education program will be a major tool of Babaylan to empower women. 3. We keep ourselves informed of developments in migrant laws in Europe and lobby for changes where migrants are disadvantaged. 4. We hope to hold a conference every two years to keep the aspirations high and to motivate more Filipinas to get involved with the network. BK: With regard to membership, who are the members of the network. Anny Hefti: Network members are all women organizations, women’s desks and women’s groups of Filipinas living in Europe BK: Now at the local level, there are Filipinas in Geneva who might be interested in joining womens groups such as Babaylan. How does one become a member of BabaylanSwitzerland? Anny Hefti: Those interested can send an application to the Executive Board c/o Adora Fischer Balikatan, Münzweg 20 7000 Chur 2 The aims and objectives of the group will be assessed. We welcome new members and will look forward to having a Babaylan member in Geneva.

Itaguyod, ating Kababaihan ni Lorimla

Simula nung si Cory Aquino ay nahalal na maging Presidente ng Pilipinas, nabuhayan ang kalooban ng bawa’t kababaihan sa ating bansa. Bagama’t mayroon ng mga namumunong babae sa gobyerno, nahalina pa ang ibang mga kababaihan na manguna sa iba’t-ibang linya ng propesyon. At lingid sa ating kaalaman, isang Filipina na nagngangalang Thelma Huber ang umukit ng kanyang sariling pangalan sa bayan ng Zurich. Si Thelma ay tubong Eastern Samar at sinubukang manirahan sa Zurich mula noong taong 1981. At sa taong 1988, dito ay nagsimulang pumasok siya sa larangan ng pulitika. Ang kanyang istorya ay parang hinango sa isang pelikula. Naghirap magmula noong siya ay tatlong taong gulang pa lamang dahil pumanaw ang kanyang mabutihing ama. Kaya’t silang walong magkakapatid ay naiwan sa kalinga ng kanilang ina. Kahirapan, hapdi ng sikmura at kawalan ng tirahan ang inabot nila. At sa dahilang hindi rin sang-ayon ang partido ng kanyang ama sa kanilang ina, lalo pa itong nagpabigat ng kanilang suliranin. Nguni’t sa mga ganitong uri ng kalagayan, ang isang tao ay nahuhubog ng husto. Natutong mamaluktot sa kakapiranggot na kumot. Nagiging matiisin at matiyaga. Nakabubuo ng pangarap sa kanilang mga isipan, ito ang nagtutulak sa kanila na magkaroon ng kaginhawaan ang hirap na buhay. Ngunit lumipas ang panahon at hindi nagtagal, sila ay naitaguyod ng kanilang ina sa pamamagitan ng hirap, pagod, tiyaga at panalangin sa Diyos. Si Thelma ay nakarating sa Zurich noong taong 1981. Sa kanyang paninirahan dito, ang lungkot ay hindi maiwasan kaya’t siya ay sumapi sa iba’t-ibang grupo. Sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon, sumali siya sa isang cultural dance group. Nguni’t hindi siya nakuntento kaya’t nagpasyang mag-aaral ng iba’t-ibang kurso. Tulad ng pagiging krankenpflege (nursing aide) sa Hospital Triemli. Marami pang organisasyon at grupo na sinalihan si Thelma. At ito ay ang mga sumusunod: Spetix at sa Zürcher Frauen Zentralle; 1996, Migrant Synode (tumutulong sa mga migranteng naninirahan sa Zurich); Kreisschulpflege; Pestalozianum; QUIMS “Quality in Multicultural School” (kung saan ito ay pilot project ng gobiyerno); 1998, FraP! Women’s Party at dito ay kumandidato siya bilang municipal councilor. Siya ay nanalo at naging konsehal mula 1998 hanggang 2002; Miyembro ng Special Commission ng Prasidial at School/Sport section; 1998-2000 over-all coordinator siya ng Philippine Center sa Zurich; Executive Member ng FIM (Forum pour l’integration des Migrant(e) CH; miyembro din ng SP (Social Democratic Party) para din sa mga migrante; Executive Member ng isang International Humanitarian non-government organization; 5 taon miyembro ng CO-OPERAID; founder ng isang Philippine Mothers Organization kung saan mayroon silang ginagawang proyekto sa tulong ng CARITAS upang makatulong sa iba’t ibang lugar sa Pilipinas; at Presidente rin siya ng isang organisasyon sa Samar-Leyte (BIS-Samar Development Project). Walang sinasayang na oras si Thelma. Dahil sa maagang hirap na kanyang dinanas sa buhay, ipinangako niya sa kanyang sarili na gagawin ang lahat sa abot ng kanyang makakayanan upang makatulong sa ating mga kababayan na naninirahan sa bansang ito at gayon din sa mga locals.

Si Thelma ay nakapag-asawa ng isang Swiss national at sila ay biniyayaan ng isang anak na babae na sa ngayon ay labing-apat na taong gulang na. Sa kasalukuyan, siya ay tumatakbo bilang kinatawan para sa Kantonsratswahlen 2003 election (cantonal assembly). Ang isa sa kanyang mga layunin ay magtaguyod ng maluwalhati at matiwasay na pamumuhay sa pagitan ng mga Swiss at ng iba pang migrante na naninirahan dito sa bansang ito. Si Thelma ay minsang nangarap. At sa kasalukuyan, ang pangarap na ito ay nabigyan na ng katuparan. Hindi pala talaga imposibleng abutin ang isang bagay kung ito ay iyong nanaising makamtan. Mapalad si Thelma dahil ang kanyang layunin sa buhay ay tapat. Siya ay isang pangkaraniwang tao na may isang pangkaraniwang pangarap. Nguni’t sa di-pangkarinawang lugar, siya ay namukod tangi. Naipakita lamang sa atin ni Thelma na kung tayo ay may sapat na lakas at talino, ang ating pangarap ay matutupad kahit nasaang lugar man tayo. Kaya’t sa iyo, aming kababayang Thelma, itaguyod mo ang ating kababaihan, itaguyod mo ang ating pagka-Pilipino.


Geneva pays tribute... (from page 1) in escaping and in finding safety. Saved from these cruel conditions, she immediately consented to make her story known to the media and inevitably became a spokesperson for women who live in present modern conditions of slavery. She engaged in this exposure, despite the fact that she was constantly at risk of being expelled from Switzerland. After many years of administrative and personal processes, Lourdes has been allowed to stay in Switzerland where she is now a student training in the medical profession. She hopes to finish her studies as a radiology technician and strives to work voluntarily for the sans papiers. To you Lourdes, the Filipino community gives respect to your fortitude and perseverance! We are all proud of the recognition given to you, in the hope that other Filipinas will be able to take inspiration in your determination and solidarity. Mabuhay ka, Lourdes! (Written by: Atty. Cecilia Jimenez, a member of the international jury of the Prix “femme exilée, femme engagée”.)

Buklod Kabayan March 2003


The New Philippine Law on Overseas Voting Implementing a Right, Maximising Opportunities by Atty. Cecilia JIMENEZ Chairperson, Geneva Forum for Philippine Concerns

In the Philippine elections of 2004, Filipinos residing overseas can, for the first time, participate and vote in Philippine elections! This generally includes all of us Filipinos residing in Switzerland, regardless of status; it includes Filipinos who belong to Geneva’s international community, Filipinos who have successfully integrated into the Geneva society and Filipinos who have irregular status according to Swiss laws. The basic requirement is our common Filipino citizenship. The present law that makes this a reality is the new “Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003” (R.A. 9189), a law that has been the subject, for more than 10 years, of much lobbying by overseas groups and recent debate in the Philippine Congress. The overseas voting law is based on the 1987 Philippine Constitutional provision that mandates the Congress to provide “a system for absentee voting by qualified Filipinos abroad.” The law was passed by both houses and later signed by the President in February. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is now in the process of drafting the implementing rules and regulations. At the same time, a taxpayer’s suit has been filed in the Supreme Court to declare null and void certain parts of the absentee voting law. Under the terms of this new law, at least 3 to 4 million Filipinos abroad would be eligible to vote in the 2004 elections. Overseas voting must be done in person at embassies and consulates and any COMELEC-designated precincts; exceptionally, however, in Japan, the United Kingdom and Canada, voting by mail shall be allowed as a pilot. In Switzerland, therefore, voting will be done in the Philippine Embassy Bern and most probably in the Consulate in Geneva. But in order to know how this will proceed, let us first examine what the Overseas Voting law provides, subject to the rules and regulations that the COMELEC will promulgate soon and, of course, pending the decision of the Supreme Court: What elections can we overseas Filipinos vote for? Overseas voters can vote at elections for president, vice-president, senators and party-list representatives. Generally, who can vote? Only Filipino citizens 18 years and up, regardless of their status in the foreign country can vote. If you have lost or renounced Philippine citizenship or pledged allegiance to a foreign country, you cannot vote. If you are still a Filipino but you are an immigrant or permanent resident in a foreign country, you must execute an affidavit saying two things: first, you intend to return to the Philippines to resume actual and permanent Philippine residence in three years time; and second, that you have not applied for foreign citizenship. How can you register as an overseas voter? Overseas absentee registration shall be done in person for those qualified Filipinos who had not previously registered under R.A. 8189 of 1996. This could be undertaken either in the municipality or city of residence before departure from the Philippines (if you happen to be in the Philippines); or in the Philip-


Buklod Kabayan March 2003

pine Embassy or Consulate that has jurisdiction over the place where you presently live. If you are already a registered voter under R.A. 8189, then you should apply at the Philippine Embassy or Consulate for a certification as an absentee voter and for inclusion in the National Registry of Overseas Absentee Voters. Lastly, the law also says that COMELEC should ensure that the benefits of continuing registration are extended to overseas voters. All approved applications of overseas absentee registrants and all voters previously registered under RA 8189 and who obtain certifications shall be included in the National Registry of Overseas Absentee Voters. What documents do you need for registration as an overseas voter? A valid Philippine passport is the best. In the absence of your valid passport, you should apply for and obtain a certification from the Department of Foreign Affairs. In addition, you should fill out a prescribed COMELEC form with all necessary information required. For immigrants and permanent residents, you are required to execute the affidavit described earlier. Once your voter’s registration is approved or certified, how can you apply to vote? At this stage, you should file a sworn written application to vote in a form prescribed by COMELEC, also at the Philippine Embassy or Consulate, but this time, you can do this personally or by mail. The COMELEC shall issue overseas absentee voted ID cards only to those whose applications were approved. A Certified List of Overseas Absentee Voters shall then be prepared by the COMELEC and copies shall be posted in the appropriate consulates or embassies. Finally, how can you vote? The overseas absentee voter, upon presentation of his/her voter’s ID card, may cast the vote during the period of 30 days before the day of elections. The voter must fill out the ballot personally, in secret, without leaving the premises of the consulate or embassy in the place where the voter temporarily resides. The voter must put the ballot inside the special envelope when it is cast; otherwise, it shall not be counted. How will the ballots be counted? The counting and canvassing of votes shall be conducted in the premises of the consulate or embassy of the country where the votes were actually cast. The start of the counting in all polling places abroad, regardless of actual hour, shall be synchronised with the start of the counting in the Philippines. Only ballots cast in the embassies or consulates before the close of the voting on election day shall be included in the counting of votes.


How will election fraud be minimised? The law provides for different measures, including the establishment of a COMELEC Committee on Absentee Voting that shall be responsible for the secrecy and sanctity of the absentee voting process. Authorised representatives of accredited major political parties shall have the right to be present in all stages of printing, transmittal and casting of ballots abroad. Special Ballot Reception and Custody Groups shall be constituted by the COMELEC to receive and take custody of the ballots. Special Boards of Election Inspectors shall also be established to conduct and supervise the counting of the ballots. The law also provides for Special Boards of Canvassers. In all stages of the electoral process, measures shall be adopted to allow representations of candidates, accredited major political parties, accredited citizens’ arms and non-governmental organisations to assist and intervene in appropriate cases to prevent fraud and coercion. Lastly, the law provides for prohibited acts amounting to electoral offences and punishable in the Philippines. Meanwhile, what is there to do? The COMELEC is in the process of drawing up the implementing rules and regulations. These will determine the concrete implementation of the provisions of R.A. 9189 and will provide for the deadlines and details in the different phases of the electoral process. Moreover, the Supreme Court should be in the position to decide on a case that has been filed with it. This case mainly challenges the constitutionality of the law’s provision on allowing immigrants and permanent residents to participate in overseas voting. Nevertheless, pending these decisions back home, overseas voting is finally, finally a reality for thousands of us abroad. While our Embassy in Berne and our Consulate in Geneva start to get their act together, the Filipinos in Switzerland should rise up to the challenge of implementing this right and maximising this opportunity. The new overseas voting law is the implementation of our common right as Filipino citizens, as recognised by international human rights law, to take part in the conduct of public affairs of our country and to vote in elections that shall guarantee the free expression of the will of electors. Let us not squander this right and this opportunity in favour of self-interests and competition; it is our duty to implement this right to help guard democracy.

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Buklod Kabayan March 2003


LES DIABLERETS March 1, 2003


Buklod Kabayan March 2003

Photos by: Dindo Quero

Steering Committee Excursion

bk March 2003