WITH THE recent announcement that the 31st SEA Games in Vietnam will be held from May 12 to 23, 2022, it seems most of our athletes, coaches, and staff will be unable to cast their votes for the national elections on May 9, 2022.
According to Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, the Philippine contingent has to fly to Hanoi a week in advance to get a feel of the venue and the competition.
Tolentino has said that missing the national elections is “one of those sacrifices of having to represent the country in an international competition.”
Given the stakes of the national elections in 2022, the timing is unfortunate. But are there legal options for our national athletes to vote while they represent the flag in Hanoi?
Short answer? Not much.
Limited options for SEA Games athletes vote in May 2022
One option that would’ve worked is under the Overseas Voting Act of 2013, or revised Republic Act No. 9189.
Under the OAV of 2013, Filipinos abroad who are 18 at the day of the elections may vote for President, Vice-President, Senators, and Party-List Representatives. Voting abroad is actually pretty convenient. It can be done personally, by mail, or other means determined by the COMELEC, and voting is not limited to a day but stretches over an entire month before May 9, 2022.
(As an aside, I voted in 2016 as an overseas voter. I filled up the ballot in the comfort of my Dupont Circle apartment and then fulfilled my dream to be a bike messenger by biking to the embassy in Washington, D.C. to drop of my ballot.)
The catch with the OAV is that overseas voters must register with the relevant Philippine embassy… and the registration period ended last October 14, 2021. So, the OAV route won’t work for our athletes.
Another option would have been local absentee voting under COMELEC Resolution No. 10725. LAV allows certain groups to cast their ballots from April 27 to 29, 2022. This would’ve been perfect for our national athletes, as this would have allowed them to vote before they fly to Hanoi.
However, LAV only covers government officials and employees, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police who will be assigned to perform election duties, and media practitioners who will be covering the elections. So, that won’t work for athletes either.
Athletes' votes matter
There’s still time until the big day of May 9, 2022. Hopefully, creative solutions can come up to accommodate our national athletes who wish to fulfill their civic duty and constitutional right. Maybe it will be possible for some of our athletes to leave after May 9, 2022? Or perhaps a flight or two can be chartered to shuttle them back and forth to vote? Ideas welcome please.
In the end, representing the country and the right of suffrage should not be mutually exclusive.
Mickey Ingles is a leading sports lawyer working in the law firm of Ingles Laurel Calderon. He wrote the country's first and only book on sports law, Laws for Sports and the Sporty. He also teaches Emerging Issues in Sports Law in the Ateneo Law School, and is the author of Alinam, a fantasy novel published by Summit Media.