Senate urges Comelec to extend voter registration period for one month
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Tuesday formally urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend for one month the voter registration period to prevent disenfranchisement of voters.
During its plenary session, the chamber adopted Senate Resolution No. 851 seeking the extension of the voter registration period up to October 31, 2021, from the original deadline of September 30.
Before the resolution’s adoption, Senator Francis Pangilinan delivered a privilege speech detailing the plight of Filipinos who had to wait in long lines when voter registration resumed in Metro Manila last September 6 after it was suspended due to quarantine restrictions.
“Marami ang nagpadala sa amin ng mga litrato at nakita rin natin na, kahit pa sinasabing extended na ang voter registration hours, ay talaga namang mahaba ang mga pila sa labas ng ilang mga Comelec offices,” he said.
(Many people are sending us photos and we have seen for ourselves that even if voter registration hours are extended, the lines are still long outside Comelec offices.)
Pangilinan cited the experience of a youth volunteer he identified as “Edward,” who tried to register at a Comelec office in Quezon City last Tuesday.
Edward, according to the senator, arrived at Quezon City-Comelec office around 2:30 p.m. but was told that he can no longer be accommodated. This, even as the registration hours during that day were supposed to last until 5 p.m.
“Ang ilan daw sa mga nakapila sa QC, 6 a.m. pa lang ay pumila na. 7 a.m., mahaba na ang pila. Pero 300 lang daw ang ina-accommodate kada araw,” Pangilinan noted.
(In QC, some arrive to line up as early as 6 a.m. but at 7 a.m., the lines were already long. Only 300 are accommodated each day.)
“While it is important for Comelec to be given enough time to prepare a final list of voters that is a prerequisite for the preparation and completion of its Project of Precincts or POP, we believe that a one-month extension will not delay Comelec’s preparation,” he stressed.
The senator pointed out that in previous elections since 2001, voter registration deadlines were set on or beyond October 31.
“The Supreme Court itself recognized the Comelec’s power to set the deadline of voter registration, so long as no registration may be done during the period starting 120 days before a regular election,” Pangilinan said.
“Based on this alone, Comelec has the prerogative to set the deadline of voter registration before January 9, 2022. But we are not asking that, we are only asking for a one-month extension. Isang buwan lang po [Only one month],” he added.
Fellow minority Senator Risa Hontiveros backed Pangilinan’s call. Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri likewise stressed the need to extend the deadline for voter registration.
“So many people who never voted before, even in their later age are now going out to register because they want to vote,” Zubiri said.
“This measure, it’s the sense of the Senate anyway, it really is just the sense of the Senate, maybe they can come up with a shorter period but the most important thing is we continue registering our new voters as long as we can. As long as we possibly can,” he added.
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