On April 9, 2016, Mr. Mariano Santos and Mr. Dominador Ramirez were eager to be the first to cast their ballots during the opening of the overseas voting in Philippine Consulate General Office in downtown Chicago. My mother, Shirley Pintado, also received her ballot in the mail and is also looking forward to cast her ballot. Thousands of Filipino citizens in the US and around the world are eager to cast their vote in the one of the closest Philippine presidential elections in recent history. The polls will be open in the Philippine Consulate office in Chicago until May 9, 2016; closing dates of polling locations may vary around the world (Philippine Consulate General Chicago Press Release, April 2016).
Mr. Dominador Ramirez, a World War II veteran said, “I am proud of voting and in participating in nation building.” Mr. Ramirez is one of the few surviving Filipino World War II veterans that sacrificed to defend Bataan and Corregidor during the war.
In 2010, the US Census reported there were 3.4 million Filipino Americans in the US (US Census Bureau, December 2014). However, there were only 12,684 registered voters in the 16 states listed under the jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Chicago. Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia noted that in 2004, overseas voter turnout rate was at 65 percent, which, despite being comparable to national turnout, was lower than expected (Philippine National Inquirer, April 7, 2016).
The Philippine Ambassador Cuisia commented, “It was the overseas Filipino community that ignited innovations to the overseas voting system to encourage higher voter turnout and maintain the sanctity of the ballot.” The Ambassador said that it was also overseas Filipinos who were concerned about good governance. They organized efforts to influence national leaders in the Philippines; spearheaded efforts to simplify overseas voting procedures; and encouraged overseas Filipinos living in the diaspora to be involved in Philippine political affairs. Philanthropist Loida Lewis, then national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and other Filipino leaders spearheaded these efforts (Philippine National Inquirer, April 7, 2016). The Filipino diaspora follows the trend of many other groups including diaspora groups from Mexico, India and others that are politically active in both the US and in their native homeland.