Republic Act No. 9189, or the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) Act of 2003 was signed into law on 23 February 2003 in accordance with Section 2, Article V (Suffrage) of the Philippine Constitution of 1987 for Congress to
provide a mechanism that will provide a system for absentee voting by qualified Filipinos abroad.
The OAV Act of 2003 calls on the Department of Foreign Affairs to serve as the primary agency in assisting the Commission on Elections implement the law in view of its effective presence overseas through its eighty-one (81) embassies, consulates and other foreign service establishments, three (3) offices of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan and one (1) Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Al-Khobar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, pursuant to this Act, issued Department Order No. 06-03 on 03 March 2003 creating the Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat (OAVS), the function of which is to direct, coordinate and oversee the DFA's participation in assisting COMELEC in the implementation of R.A. 9189.
Other government agencies, such as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO) also lent support in the first-ever implementation of an Overseas Absentee Voting for Filipinos overseas.
Attached services if the government which maintain representation overseas, such as the Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of National Defense (DND); Social Security System (SSS); Pag-Ibig Fund; Landbank of the Philippines; and the Philippine National Police (PNP) also assisted through their personnel abroad who were deputized as COMELEC representatives.
The One-Country Team Approach, as provided under Republic Act No. 8042 (Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995), and enunciated under Executive Order No. 74, series 1993, applies in the implementation of the OAV Act insofar as it does not conflict with the constitutional mandate of the COMELEC to have exclusive charge of the enforcement, administration and implementation of Philippine Election laws.
As can be gleaned from the provisions of the OAV Act, the DFA is involved in practically every stage and aspect of the implementation of the law -- from the publication of the Notice of Registration and Election; conduct of information dissemination activities; acceptance of applications for registration/certification as an overseas absentee voter; posting of the Certified List of Overseas Absentee Voters; receipt, inventory, custody, and disposition of ballots, election forms and paraphernalia; voting, counting and canvassing of votes. In every stage of such involvement, the parameters for the engagement of the foreign service personnel are clearly defined in the provisions of the OAV Act of 2003 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations.