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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) urged first-time voter applicants not to wait for the January 31 deadline before showing up at registration offices and committing to exercise their right to suffrage.
Since voter registration for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections resumed in December, the Comelec has so far accommodated 60,941 registrants who are 15 to 17 years old, and 127,638 registrants who are 18 years old and above.
Teopisto Elnas Jr., who was recently promoted to the poll body’s executive director post, said the Comelec is targeting 1.5 million Filipinos in the latest round of voter registration.
“Sa buong Pilipinas, nilalangaw ang ating mga opisina ng Comelec as far as registration is concerned. Huwag na tayong maghintay pa ng isang araw bago ang deadline…na dudumugin na naman ang mga opisina ng Comelec,” Elnas said in a press briefing on Tuesday, January 3.
(Throughout the country, Comelec offices have been seeing low turnouts as far as registration is concerned. Let’s not wait for the day before the deadline to rush to Comelec offices.)
Even though the barangay and SK elections will take place in October, the current registration round is set to end on January 31.
This is in accordance with a law that prohibits voter registration 120 days prior to elections, in the event that the Supreme Court grants a petition pushing for the conduct of the electoral exercise in May.
It was veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal who sought the High Court’s intervention, arguing that the law passed by Congress to postpone the barangay elections initially scheduled in December 2022 is unconstitutional.
Voter registration caravan
The Comelec recently introduced initiatives to simplify voter registration for first-time applicants.
These initiatives include the Register Anywhere Project, which allows applicants to go to select malls and sign up outside of their places of residence.
Comelec Chairman George Garcia also said he plans to fly to Kalayaan Island in Palawan province on January 14 to encourage locals to participate in the elections.
It is the lone Philippine municipality situated in the South China Sea, and is part of the Spratly Islands, which China also considers as its territory.
The town has nearly 200 inhabitants based on the government’s 2020 census, but Garcia is undeterred by its small population.
“Sabihin na nating hindi ganoon kadami ang mga kababayan natin, but that is very symbolic on the part of the Comelec to prove that they can register anywhere, kahit sa Kalayaan Island,” he said.
(Our fellow Filipinos may not be that many there, but that is very symbolic on the part of the Comelec to prove that they can register anywhere, even in Kalayaan Island.)