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Youth groups urge Comelec to extend voter registration by 1 month in ECQ-affected areas

More than 50 youth organizations urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday to extend the voter registration period by at least one month especially in areas heavily-affected by lockdowns.

In light of the celebration of the International Youth Day, various youth organizations participated in an online forum urging the poll body to allow more Filipinos to register for the 2022 national and local elections.

During the event, First Time Voter Network convener Gladys Milioga said 73 million Filipinos are eligible to vote in the upcoming elections, but with only 49 days remaining and the lockdowns imposed by the government, potential voters cannot register in their respective Comelec offices.

“Hindi bababa sa dalawang buwan ang hinaba na ng kabuuang lockdown ngayong taon pa lamang. Sayang ang mga araw na hindi nagamit ng mga kabataan para magparehistro,” Milioga said.

(This year alone, some areas were placed on lockdown for more than two months. The young ones could have used this time to register with Comelec.)

Although Comelec was able to reach their target of four million additional voters in 2022, she said there are 13 million Filipinos who might not be able to register if the period was not extended for at least one month.

“Thirteen million na mga kabataan at kababayan ang hindi makakapagparticipate dahil lamang sa circumstances na hindi natin kontrol…At dahil doon ito ay sapat at lohikal na dahilan para i-extend ang voter registration dahil makasaysayan ang eleksyon ng 2022. So sana pakinggan kami ng Comelec,” she added.

(Thirteen million young voters may not be able to participate because of the circumstances that we cannot control. These are enough and logical reasons to extend the voter registration because the 2022 election is historical. So we hope Comelec will hear our plea.)

According to Milioga, the petition to extend the voter registration period was already submitted to the poll body through Commissioner Rowena Guanzon.

However, the Comelec has yet to respond to their appeal.

Apart from their request to extend the voter registration period by at least one month, the youth groups also asked the poll body to extend the registration hours and allow the registration during weekends.

The Comelec was also urged to provide simplified digital procedures for the revalidation of 6.3 million delisted voters, as well as to set clear guidelines that will accommodate alternative but legitimate forms of identifications for first time voters.

These guidelines are needed by first time voters, including students and out-of-school youth who may not have easy access to documentary requirements.

Senator Risa Hontiveros has also joined the youth organizations in calling for the voter registration extension.

“Let it be clear that the voice of the youth is strong, and that the voice of the youth should not be ignored. While we build a new and better normal, the youth should decide what that will look like. The youth should decide the outcome of the 2022 elections. And that should begin by giving you the time you are promised by our laws,” Hontiveros said in a recorded video message shown during the online forum.

In a statement last Monday, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the Comelec has yet to decide on whether it will extend the voter registration period or not.

“[T]he Commission en banc has opened discussion on this matter during the last en banc session. The Executive Director has also been directed to study the matter and is expected to report his conclusions back to the en banc in due time,” Jimenez said.

Sought for comment, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Malacanang will let the poll body decide on the matter.

"Ang Comelec naman po ay isang constitutional body at sila po talaga ang mayroong hurisdiksyon para mag-conduct ng mga eleksyon. So nasa kamay po iyan ng Comelec," he said.

(Comelec is a constitutional body and it has jurisdiction over the conduct of elections. So we leave that in the hands of Comelec.)

"Do we agree? Well, we leave it to the Comelec because the President and the Comelec chairman and commissioners have the same access to the same information that we all know is happening – mayroon pong pandemya (we are in a pandemic)," Roque added.

The poll body has suspended the voter registration in the National Capital Region and other areas that were under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified ECQ.

As of June 22, the poll body said there are at least 60 million voters registered for the 2022 national and local elections

The voter registration will end on September 30, 2021.—AOL, GMA News