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After the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) refused to extend voter registration for the 2022 Philippine elections beyond September 30, 2021, various groups expressed their opposition to the decision on Wednesday, August 18.
The Comelec’s decision came despite calls from several lawmakers and youth groups to move the deadline by at least a month, citing the repeated suspension of voter registration operations caused by coronavirus-driven hard lockdowns since 2020.
‘Comelec needs to adjust’
Poll watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) released a statement on Wednesday, repeating its call to extend the deadline for voter registration.
“We want to ensure that everyone is given the equal opportunity to register and the areas that were locked down several times are urban centers,” LENTE said.
“This pandemic calls for extraordinary measures and the Comelec must adjust to meet the challenges,” LENTE said, responding to Comelec’s earlier statement that extending the deadline might result in a “domino effect” which would delay their other activities.
Kabataan Partylist also echoed this, citing calls to reconsider the decision and to heed public clamor.
“Kailangan mag-adjust na ang Comelec dahil sunod-sunod ang suspension ng voter registration sa ECQ, MECQ areas at maraming hindi nakalalabas dahil sa lockdown. Malaking bagay na ang kahit isang buwan na extension upang hayaang makapagparehistro ang milyon-milyon pang unregistered,” Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago said in a statement.
(Comelec needs to adjust because of the repeated suspensions on voter registration in areas under ECQ, MECQ. It will make a huge difference if there will be an extension as this will allow millions of unregistered Filipinos to register to vote.)
Extended hours, opening ‘not enough’
Youth organizations also opposed Comelec’s move to instead extend registration hours and conduct it on Saturdays and holidays.
“The compromise of extending registration hours is not enough to cater for the 13.1 million Filipinos who are about to be disenfranchised because of the non-extension,” Kabataan, Tayo ang Pagasa (KTAP) said in a statement.
Before Comelec’s decision, lawmakers in both chambers of Congress also filed multiple resolutions calling for the extension of voter registration. They also expressed their fear millions of people who are qualified to vote could be disenfranchised.
“The extension of registration hours will be moot if offices remain understaffed to deal with backlogs and if satellite registrations are still lacking,” National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) President Jandeil Roperos said.
“There remain to be some 13 million eligible voters who have yet to register…The Commission needs to see that this is a sizable group,” NUSP added.
Along with youth groups, former Comelec chair and Eleksyon 2022 Koalisyon lead convenor Christian Monsod also said the extension of registration hours, and the inclusion of Saturdays and holidays for registration, “does not address the problem for ECQ areas” as well as areas under lockdown.
Voters’ registration coalition Eleksyon 2022 Koalisyon was also among those who petitioned for the extension of the voter registration before Comelec made its decision.
“Moving the election project timeline for a couple of weeks, to ensure that more qualified voters can register, and thus, make elections more meaningful and credible, is worth the extra effort that may be needed to adjust and innovative,” Eleksiyon 2022 Koalisyon earlier said in its petition to Comelec on Tuesday, August 17.
‘Consider health of voters’
Moreover, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) emphasized that extending the registration is a consideration towards the health of the voters.
“The safety of the Filipinos from the socioeconomic woes that the pandemic has produced and as the COVID-19 Delta and Lambda variant endanger aspiring voters’ lives at risk should they try to register at this crucial time,” CEGP Deputy Secretary-General Regina Tolentino said in a statement.
They also emphasized that their call for voter registration also exposes the Duterte administration’s failed pandemic response: “Extending at least one month is necessary to save and protect the voting rights of Filipinos who were victimized by the criminal negligence of the Duterte administration,” Tolentino added. – Rappler.com