As lockdowns resume, Comelec still not discussing extending voter registration

As the hard lockdown in Metro Manila and other areas forces the suspension of voter registration once more, the Commission on Elections said the possibility of extending the September 30 registration deadline has not been brought to the table.

“The Commission en banc has not – repeat NOT – discussed the possibility of extension of the voter registration period,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told reporters on Monday, August 2. 

From August 6 to 20, Metro Manila, the Philippines' second most vote-rich region, will be under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the strictest form of lockdown under the Duterte administration. 

A modified ECQ is also imposed for a certain time in August in some areas in the Visayas, including Cebu, the country's most vote-rich province.

Earlier on Monday, August 2, Senator Risa Hontiveros had appealed to the poll body to extend voter registration in areas that will be placed under tight lockdowns.

Sayang iyong period from August 6 to 20. Especially for some of our first-time voters, iyong iba sa kanila are not even eligible for vaccination,” Hontiveros had said.

(The August 6 to 20 period will be wasted, especially for some of our first-time voters. Some of them are not even eligible for vaccination.)

In another television interview, Jimenez said the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) in October would further complicate the idea of extending voter registration.

"Last day ng voter registration, kinabukasan, filing na ng COC agad. Dapat at that time, naghahanda na tayo sa final list of voters. Hindi natin magagawa iyan kung mag-e-extend pa tayo,” Jimenez told Teleradyo on Tuesday.

(A day after the deadline of voter registration is the filing of COCs. At that time, we should already be preparing our final list of voters. We won’t be able to do that if we were to extend voter registration.)

Nonetheless, Jimenez reiterated that the Comelec has reached its projections for the 2022 elections.

"Lampas na tayo sa target natin pero syempre patuloy natin hinihikayat ang mga kababayan natin," said Jimenez, who, back in May, was adamant against describing Comelec’s numbers as “targets" and insistent on calling them "expectations."

(We have surpassed our target, but of course, we continue to encourage our countrymen to register.)

The Comelec said in June that there were already 4.3 million first-time voters for the May 9, 2022 vote, breaching the poll body’s 4-million projection.

The suspension of voter registration in many areas in August was just the latest example of how the pandemic casts a long shadow on the poll body’s preparations for the 2022 polls.

On Wednesday, July 28, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri presented a commissioned Pulse Asia survey which showed 46% of Filipinos would rather skip the 2022 polls if COVID-19 cases remain high on election day.

The Comelec asserted that it can conduct safe elections, and said it remains confident of a sizable voter turnout despite the coronavirus threat. – Rappler.com