Poll commissioner Marlon Casquejo on Wednesday told lawmakers that he will raise Congress’ demand to extend the voter registration period with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc.
During the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JCOC) hearing, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga told Casquejo that both the Senate and House of Representatives had passed resolutions urging the poll body to extend the registration due to the limitations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initially, Casquejo maintained the Comelec en banc’s decision against the extension of voter registration beyond the deadline set on September 30, 2021.
“There will be no extension for the registration. It will be up to September 30, 2021. So pasensya na po kung the Comelec en banc can no longer entertain such extension because one of the reasons during our discussions why we said na mahirap na magkaroon ng extension because there are so many preparations na maapektuhan,” he said.
(There will be no extension of the registration. It will be up to September 30, 2021. So we are sorry to say that the Comelec en Banc can no longer entertain such extension because one of the reasons during our discussions why we said that it is difficult to have the extension is because there are so many preparations that will be affected.)
“We cannot compromise those other preparations because of also the pandemic situation talaga medyo gipit na kami (we are running out of time), as well as our preparations… So we regret to inform this body that the commission en banc has already decided unanimously that there will be no extension of registration,” the commissioner added.
But Barzaga and Senator Imee Marcos pressed Casquejo to reconsider the resolutions from both houses of Congress.
Marcos pointed out that the September 30 voter registration deadline is fast approaching and the government is set to shift to another lockdown system which may affect the process of registration.
Casquejo said the Comelec has already allowed the registrations in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine.
He added that the voter registration turnout in the National Capital Region is high in the recent week despite the implementation of the MECQ.
But Marcos argued that the 61.1 million registered voters for the 2022 polls, based on Comelec’s data, is still far from the 73.3 million qualified voters as identified by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
At this point, Casquejo said he will try to raise this with the poll body.
“We will just [bring] it up this to the en banc next week, Madam chair,” Casquejo said.
On Tuesday, the Senate adopted a resolution urging the Comelec to move the voter registration deadline from September 30 to October 31, 2021 to prevent “voter disenfranchisement” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last September 2, the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms also adopted two resolutions urging the poll body to extend voter registration.
On August 27, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said there are around 61.06 million registered voters. — RSJ, GMA News