The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in an en banc session on Wednesday, September 29, extended the deadline for overseas voters’ registration from October 1 to 14, 2021.
The same morning, the Comelec extended local voting registration until October 31. The Comelec did not immediately explain why overseas registration would be for two weeks only.
“Note that for overseas voting, the filing of COCs (certificates of candidacy) is not an issue, thus the extension starts immediately,” said Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez.
The Comelec earlier said that it would “most likely” not entertain voter applicants locally from October 1 to 8, so that election officers could focus on the week-long filing of certificates of candidacy.
At the Comelec’s budget hearing at the House of Representatives Tuesday, September 28, Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite asked why overseas voters could not enjoy the same length of extension.
“Bakit po one week lang para sa possible overseas voters who may participate? Hindi ho ba dapat patas? If we will apply this locally, para sa mga Filipinong nakulangan din, eh ganoon din po naman ang sitwasyon sa ibang bansa. Nagkaroon din ng mga lockdowns, mga limitasyon,” said Gaite.
(Why is it just one week for possible overseas voters who may participate? Shouldn’t we make it fair? We are applying this locally for Filipinos who felt the registration days were short, but the same thing happened in other countries. There were also lockdowns and limitations.)
Gaite added that he received information on how personnel from Philippine consular offices assigned to handle overseas voting applications also experienced difficulties with lockdowns.
Surigao del Norte Representative Francisco Jose Matugas II, who sponsored the Comelec’s proposed P26.49-billion budget for 2022, explained that since overseas voting begins a month before election day, preparations are also done earlier.
The 30-day overseas voting period will be from April 10 to May 9, 2022.
Rappler received reports from overseas Filipinos saying they had difficulties in registering due to technical issues with the Philippine posts’ websites, or mobility woes.
To register, overseas Filipinos need to appear in person at Philippine embassies, consulates, or other designated registration centers. These are usually located in capital cities, making it an issue for Filipinos who live in farther areas. The problem was further complicated by COVID-19 restrictions.
The Comelec is set to announce on November 29 the modes of voting per overseas post. – with reports from Dwight de Leon/Rappler.com