Senate to Comelec: Don’t disenfranchise voters, extend registration until October 31

The Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend voter registration for the high-stakes 2022 elections by a month or until October 31. 

On Tuesday, September 14, senators adopted Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 851 primarily authored by Senator Francis Pangilinan and co-signed by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, and Joel Villanueva. 

Senators called on Comelec to move the deadline for Filipinos to register as voters from September 30 to October 31 “to prevent voter disenfranchisement brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Comelec set the September 30, 2021 deadline before the COVID-19 pandemic. In this connection, Comelec could not have anticipated the adverse impact of the pandemic on voter registration and must make the necessary adjustments to allow more unregistered potential voters to register,” read PSR 851. 

Comelec already announced in August that it would not extend voter registration despite calls for an extension from lawmakers, youth organizers, and even former poll officials. 

Pangilinan also pointed out in a privilege speech that Comelec had to suspend the voter registration period for five and a half months in 2020 when the parts of the Philippines were first put under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the strictest form of lockdown in the country. 

Comelec later passed a resolution that mandated the suspension of voter registration in areas placed under ECQ or the less strict modified ECQ. 

“Nationwide, dahil sa suspension ng five and a half months, tinatayang 28.3% na mga araw ng pagpaparehistro ang nawala. Halos tatlong araw sa sampung registration days ang nawala,” said Pangilinan.

(Nationwide, because of the suspension for five and a half months, around 28.3% of registration days were lost. That's almost three days for every 10 registration days lost.)

Pangilinan said this figure does not even take into account the suspension of voter registration in areas that were hit by typhoons and other calamities.

Senators also argued there have been six times in the past when the Comelec set deadlines for voter registration beyond October 31 of the year before the elections. This happened during the following elections:

"While it is also important for Comelec to have enough time to prepare the final list of voters, which is a prerequisite for the preparation and completion of the Project of Precincts (POP), a one-month extension will not unduly hamper or delay Comelec's preparation of the POP," said the senators.

In a bid to allow more Filipinos to register before the September 30 deadline, Comelec has decided to extend voter registration hours and has opened registration areas in shopping malls.

But advocates insist these measures aren’t enough. The Philippine Statistics Authority's projected voting population in 2022 is 73 million, and groups fear that Comelec's decision not to move the deadline would disenfranchise millions of voters. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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