By Ferdinand Patinio

OVERSEAS VOTING PROJECT. Officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) led by chairperson George Erwin Garcia (center) and the joint venture of SMS Global Technologies, Inc. (SMS) and Sequent Tech Inc. hold a press briefing at the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila on Tuesday (June 25, 2024). The two institutions signed the contract for the the contract signing for the Online Voting and Counting System, to be used by overseas voters in the 2025 midterm polls. (Screengrab from Comelec Facebook)

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) expressed hope that the use of the Online Voting and Counting System (OVCS) in the May 2025 midterm polls would lure more overseas Filipinos to sign up.

“We will have a massive voters education campaign with regards to internet voting. We will incorporate overseas voter registration with it. It is our hope that by announcing internet voting, the interest to vote will increase,” Comelec chairperson George Erwin Garcia said in a press briefing on the sidelines of the contract signing for the OVCS project with the joint venture of SMS Global Technologies, Inc. (SMS) and Sequent Tech Inc. at the poll body’s main office in Intramuros, Manila on Tuesday.

Garcia lamented that only 200,000 Filipinos abroad have so far signed up as new voters since the start of the overseas voter registration last December.

He said the 1.697 million registered overseas Filipino voters in the May 2022 polls have decreased following the deactivation of many voters due to various reasons.

Meanwhile, SMS president Anthony Angeles vowed to assist the poll body in encouraging more Filipinos abroad to register.

“By educating overseas Filipinos, we are hoping the registration will be much more aggressive. Before, you need to visit the embassy twice, to register and to vote. Now, you’ll only have to go once, to register. We will do our best to help in the information campaign,” Angeles said.

Last month, the Comelec en banc awarded the project to the JV of SMS and Sequent Tech Inc. after it was declared as having the lowest calculated bid at PHP112 million, much lower than the project’s approved budget of PHP465.8 million.

Meanwhile, the service provider assured Filipinos that their system is fully secured amid threats of hacking.

“The votes are encrypted, private, and the process — from the beginning when you cast the ballot to the end when you have the results — is verifiable from beginning to end,” Sequent chief technology officer Eduardo Robles said.

The overseas voting period for the 2025 polls will run from April 13, 2025 to May 12, 2025. (PNA)