The Senate on Tuesday adopted a resolution urging the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to move the voter registration deadline from September 30 to October 31, 2021.
The chamber unanimously adopted Senate Resolution 851 after Senator Francis Pangilinan delivered a privilege speech and moved to transfer the referral of the measure from the Senate committee on electoral reforms to the committee on rules.
Senate electoral committee chairperson Imee Marcos, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Juan Miguel Zubiri manifested their support on the adoption of SR 851.
In his privilege speech, Pangilinan mentioned the long queues and the surge of registrants in Comelec offices when it resumed the voter registration last September 6.
He also cited various personal accounts, saying that the Comelec local offices are implementing a cut-off system and they only accommodate around 200 to 300 registrants per day.
This, despite the earlier announcement of the poll body that voter registration hours are extended.
Apart from these, Pangilinan mentioned several factors that hinder the public to register in Comelec offices. These factors are: contracting COVID-19, losing their slots and lack of time to register. Some were even discouraged from registering with Comelec, he added.
Citing Philippine Statistics Authority data, he said the estimated voting population for 2022 is around 73.3 million while the Comelec said there are already 61.06 million registered voters as of August 24.
“It means there are 12.24 million Filipinos not yet registered to vote in the next 17 days,” Pangilinan said.
Citing his office’s study, Pangilinan said registrations in NCR and Region IV-A or Calabarzon are not meeting the PSA projection.
“While the national average of the registered voters vis-à-vis the PSA projection is 86.6%, 69.2% lang sa NCR at 76.5% sa Calabarzon. Mababa rin sa (It is also low in) Central Luzon o Region 3, 79%,” he said.
He reiterated the call to:
-Prevent the disenfranchisement of voters.
-Ensure safe voter registration
-Give consideration as there are countless lockdowns imposed due to COVID-19
-Extend the voter registration
Pangilinan said four of 10 registration days in Metro Manila alone were lost due to the lockdowns.
Due to the suspensions, which ran for about five and a half months, the senator said around 28.3% of voter registration days were lost, excluding the days when it was suspended due to the recent typhoons that entered the country.
“While it is important for Comelec to be given enough time to prepare a final list of voters that is a prerequisite for the preparation and completion of its Project of Precincts or POP, we believe that a one month extension will not delay Comelec’s preparation,” he said.
Pangilinan reiterated that from 2001 to 2016, the voter registration deadlines were set on or beyond October 31.
He backed this argument with a Supreme Court decision which recognized the Comelec’s authority to set deadlines of voter registration so long as no registration should be done during the period starting 120 days before a regular election.
“Based on this alone, Comelec has the prerogative to set the deadline of voter registration before January 9, 2022. But we are not asking that, we are only asking for a one month extension. Isang buwan lang po,” he said.
“The September 30 deadline was set before the pandemic. It is a pre-pandemic deadline. Nobody could have anticipated how this public health emergency would severely impact our daily lives, let alone voter registration,” he added.
To give emphasis on the importance of the extension, Pangilinan said over 100 universities, colleges, and organizations, including the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines joined the call to extend the voter registration period due to the impact of the pandemic as well as risk of COVID-19 to unvaccinated individuals which include most of the young people.
In August, Pangilinan and six other senators filed a SR 851 urging the poll body to move the deadline for voter registration from September 30, 2021 to October 31, 2021 to prevent “voter disenfranchisement” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the senators’ call, Comelec en banc decided against the extension of voter registration period, instead they have approved a resolution extending the voter registration hours.—LDF, GMA News