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Bill extending voter registration for one month gets Senate’s final nod

/ 04:37 PM September 27, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to extend for one month the voter registration deadline for the 2022 polls.

Voting 23-0-0, senators approved Senate Bill No. 2408, which aims to mandate the extension of the voter registration period from the original deadline set on Sept. 30 to Oct. 31.

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The bill was passed amid the repeated refusal of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow one more month for the registration of voters.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, principal author of the bill, stressed the urgency of passing a legislation that would mandate the Comelec to move the deadline of the registrations to allow more voters to participate in the elections next year.

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A similar bill has been approved on second reading in the House of Representatives.

“Hopefully the President will sign this request,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri, in his sponsorship speech last week, said the extension would prevent the disenfranchisement of about 12 million eligible voters.

In its explanatory note, the senators stressed that almost six months of the registration period was lost when the pandemic began and the country was under stringent lockdown.

More days were lost too when areas were reverted back to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified ECQ, they added.

The Comelec, the senators stressed, set the September 30, 2021 deadline before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In this connection, Comelec could not have anticipated the adverse impact of the pandemic on voter registration and must make the necessary adjustments to allow more unregistered potential voters to register,” the senators pointed out.

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The senators, citing the Comelec report, said that as of June 2021, there are around 60 million registered voters for the 2022 elections.

This is short of the 73.3 million projected voting population reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in February 2021, they said.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, it is necessary to extend the voter registration, in order to give unregistered Filipinos of voting age ample time to register, and eventually exercise their constitutional right to vote,” the senator added.

Last Friday, a subcommittee of the Senate finance panel deferred the deliberations and approval of Comelec’s budget for 2022 to give the poll body a chance to discuss the move of Congress to legislate the extension of voter registration.

During the budget hearing, Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas said the poll body will have no choice but to follow the bill should it be signed into law.

Abas, however, reiterated their proposed compromise of opening the voter registration for one more week after the filing of the certificates of candidacy scheduled on October 1 to 8.

“Wala po kaming luxury of time,” (We don’t have the luxury of time),” he told senators, citing the Comelec’s tight timeline ahead of the 2022 elections.

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