Almost 8 months of voter registration lost in some areas due to lockdowns

Among countless other losses brought about by the lockdowns supposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, one stands out in light of the upcoming 2022 elections – the amount of time granted to Filipinos so that they can register to vote.

In 2020 alone, voter registration was suspended nationwide for almost six months. And, in 2021, including the ongoing modified enhanced community quarantine or MECQ until August 31, 2021, some areas have lost as many as 50 days of voter registration.

Despite how much time has been lost, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) stands its ground: voter registration ends on September 30 and will not be extended.

Their compromise is to extend voter registration hours and to remain open on Saturdays and holidays. Still, the number of those extra hours and days are not even close to making up for the months that have been lost.

Based on Comelec's announcements, here is a timeline and a rundown of the voter registration days that were lost since the pandemic began due to lockdowns across the country. 

These do not include specific office closures due to disinfection. These may also not be congruent with respective periods of community quarantine, and may not reflect the reality on the ground given factors like varying cutoff systems and disinfection practices.

Nationwide suspension and schedule changes

1st Quarter, 2020

  • January 20 – Voter registration begins with a schedule of Monday to Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm, and all holidays, except Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Christmas.
  • January 20 to 25 – Comelec processes over 100,000 applications nationwide.
  • March 10 to August 31 – Voter registration is suspended nationwide for a total of 148 days.

2nd Quarter, 2020

  • June 15 – Comelec allows registered voters to secure their voter’s certification from its main office and all Offices of the Election Officer (OEOs) that are under general community quarantine or GCQ, modified GCQ, and no quarantine.
  • July 3 – The Comelec Main Office stops transacting with the public every Friday to give way to weekly disinfection and decontamination.

3rd Quarter, 2020

  • August 3 to 16 – Comelec Main Office closes for disinfection.
  • August 4 to 18 – Comelec offices remain closed in areas under MECQ, specifically the National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, and other offices in Calabarzon.

4th Quarter, 2020

  • September 1 – Voter registration resumes with a new schedule of Tuesdays to Saturdays, 8 am to 3 pm, including holidays. Satellite voter registration is still not allowed. Overseas voter registration also resumes.
  • October 31 – Voter registration is suspended nationwide.
  • November 2 – Voter registration is suspended nationwide.
  • November 3 – Voter registration is reduced to four days a week, with no more Saturday registration and with Fridays reserved for disinfection.
  • November 30 – Voter registration is suspended nationwide.
  • December 8 – Voter registration is suspended nationwide.

1st Quarter, 2021

  • February 14 – Voter registration hours are extended, with a new schedule of Tuesdays to Saturdays, 8 am to 5 pm. Disinfection is now conducted on Mondays.
  • March 22 to April 4 – Voter registration schedule is Mondays to Thursdays, 8 am to 3 pm, while the issuance of voter’s certification is continued until 5 pm. Satellite registration is suspended until further notice
  • March 29 to May 14 – Voter registration is suspended in NCR Plus (NCR, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite) for a total of 28 days.

2nd Quarter, 2021

  • April 1 and 2 – No voter registration.
  • April 5 – Voter registration resumes in OEOs under GCQ or MGCQ.
  • May 10 – Satellite registration resumes, and a new voter registration schedule is implemented, namely Mondays to Fridays from 8 am to 5 pm in OEOs or in satellite registration sites on Saturdays.
  • May 17 – Voter registration, including satellite registration, and issuance of voter’s certification resume in NCR Plus.

3rd Quarter, 2021

  • August 23 – New voter registration schedule – Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 7 pm; and Saturdays and holidays, from 8 am to 5 pm – takes effect.
Localized lockdowns in 2021

Areas covered: NCR
Periods of suspension: March 29 to May 14, 2021; August 6 to 31, 2021
Days lost: 50

Areas covered: Laguna
Periods of suspension: March 29 to May 14, 2021; August 6 to 31, 2021
Days lost: 50 

Areas covered: Santiago City, Isabela
Period of suspension: April 12 to June 15, 2021
Days lost: 48 

Areas covered: Davao City
Period of suspension: May 26 to July 15, 2021
Days lost: 44
*Note: This was prompted by an executive order restricting face-to-face government activities. Transactions resumed on July 16, with a schedule of Monday to Friday, 8 am to 5 pm.

Areas covered: Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte
Period of suspension: June 1 to July 15, 2021
Days lost: 39

Areas covered: Cavite, Rizal
Periods of suspension: March 29 to May 14, 2021; August 6 to 15, 2021 
Days lost: 36

Areas covered: Abra, Quirino
Period of suspension: April 12 to May 31, 2021
Days lost: 35

Areas covered: Bataan
Periods of suspension: July 6 (at the latest) to July 16, August 2 to 15, August 23 to 31, 2021
Days lost: 30

Areas covered: Bulacan
Period of suspension: March 29 to May 14, 2021
Days lost: 28

Areas covered: Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga City
Period of suspension: June 1 to June 30, 2021
Days lost: 26

Areas covered: Negros Oriental
Period of suspension: June 16 to July 15, 2021
Days lost: 26 

Areas covered: Cagayan de Oro City
Periods of suspension: June 1 to 15, 2021; August 2 to 15, 2021
Days lost: 25

Areas covered: Iloilo
Periods of suspension: July 5 (at the latest) to July 15, 2021; August 2 to 15, 2021
Days lost: 22

Areas covered: Iloilo City, Butuan City, and the provinces of Cagayan, Benguet, and Apayao
Period of suspension: June 1 to June 15, 2021
How many days lost: 13

Areas covered: Puerto Princesa City, Ifugao province
Period of suspension: June 1 to June 15, 2021
Days lost: 13
*Note: Applications for voter’s certification remained open at this time.

Areas covered: Sinait and Sta. Lucia in Ilocos Sur
Period of suspension: June 28 to July 12, 2021
Days lost: 13

Areas covered: Vigan City
Period of suspension: August 9 to 23, 2021
Days lost: 13

Areas covered: Ilocos Norte, Lapu Lapu City, Mandaue City
Period of suspension: August 2 to 15, 2021
Days lost: 12

Areas covered: Magsingal in Ilocos Sur
Period of suspension: July 5 (at the latest) to July 16, 2021
Days lost: 11

Areas covered: Towns of Samboan, Sibonga, Argao, Cordova, Oslob, Liloan, Consolacion, Minglanilla, and cities of Talisay, Carcar, and Naga in Cebu province
Period of suspension: From August 11, 2021 until further notice
Days lost: 13, as of writing

Areas covered: Tuguegarao City
Period of suspension: August 12 to 21, 2021
Days lost: 9

Areas covered: Lucena City
Period of suspension: August 6 to 15, 2021
Days lost: 8

Areas covered: Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental
Period of suspension: August 2 to 7, 2021
Days lost: 6
*Note: The OEO remained open for requests for voter’s certification.

As of June 26, 2021, the Philippines has 2,255,515 first-time registrants. Learn how to register to vote here. – Rappler.com

Loreben Tuquero

Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.

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