House OKs bill extending voter registration for 2022 polls
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives approved on final reading the bill seeking to extend the voter registration for the 2022 national elections.
With 193 affirmative votes, zero negative and no abstention, the lower chamber approved House Bill No. 10261 filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano.
“For all intents and purposes, registration of new voters would have been an ordinary concern. But we are living under extraordinary circumstances. The public health crisis has been prolonged and many prospective voters have been forced to delay their registration this year and in 2020,” the House leaders said.
Under the measure, the last day of voter registration for the 2022 elections shall be 30 days after the effectivity of the Act. Currently, the Comelec has set the deadline for voter registration on September 30.
While Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman voted affirmative on the measure out of support for the extension, he underscored that it “may not be necessary to enact” the measure.
Lagman cited Republic Act No. 8189 or “The Voter’s Registration Act of 1996”, which he authored, in arguing that Comelec cannot refuse to conduct a longer period of registration of voters.
The lawmaker, who is also a lawyer by profession, said that Section 8 of the law states that voter registration can be conducted until 120 days before a regular election and 90 days before a special election.
Lagman explained that under the prevailing law, the registration of voters for next year’s elections would be up to January 9, 2022, which is 120 days before the May 9, 2022 regular elections.
“I would like to underscore that since House Bill No. 10261 is only for the fixing of the last day of registration of voters for the May 9, 2022 national and local elections, Section 8 of R.A. No. 8189 will still apply to subsequent elections,” Lagman said.
Velasco, meanwhile, called the approval of the measure “a major step to prevent voter disenfranchisement.”
“We hope the Comelec will use the one-month extension to ramp up voter registration and ensure that more people can vote next year because we cannot afford to disenfranchise voters,” Velasco said.
“The right to vote in an election is one essential part of the democratic process, and Comelec is duty-bound to make sure that all eligible voters are able to register and exercise their right of suffrage,” he added.
According to Velasco, the six-month suspension of voter registration during the height of the pandemic in 2020 prevented a lot of Filipinos from taking the crucial first step in participating in the May 2022 polls.
He noted that registrations were suspended further in 2021 as the nation was placed under different community quarantine classifications.
Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said that instead of a one-month extension, the polling body is proposing to extend the voter registration period for just one week after filing the certificates of candidacy (COC) from October 1 to 8.
Casquejo reiterated the need to have an earlier deadline to make way for preparations amid the pandemic.
“We have an earlier deadline because of the preparations for pandemic…Majority of our preparations will be affected,” he said.
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