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Congress urged to pass law synchronizing PSA, Comelec data for voter registration

An election watchdog on Monday urged Congress to pass a legislation that will synchronize Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data with that of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to get rid of the voter registration process.

The National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) made the recommendation to the Comelec as well as the Senate and the House of Representatives, following the publication of its report on the resumption of voter registration that was held from July 4 to 23.

On top of their list of recommendations is the approval of a law that will "allow data sharing agreements" between the PSA and the Comelec "in order to dispense with the voter registration process."

"This would save time and costs not only for the local Comelec offices but also for would-be voters who have to line up even before the sun has risen just to be able to submit their applications," the group said in a statement.

The group urged Congress to study and adopt the system used in Indonesia where the government is mandated to provide data on the population of potential election voters to be used by the Indonesian General Elections Commission (KPU) for compiling the voters list.

NAMFREL said the data given to the KPU come from people registered in the electronic Resident Identification Card scheme and the Indonesian national ID system.

The group likewise asked Congress to require the PSA and the civil registrars nationwide to submit to the Comelec the information on deceased persons so they can be purged from the voter registration database.

Further, NAMFREL said the civil registrars should share with the Comelec the data on citizens turning 15 years old for purposes of the Sangguniang Kabataan elections and 18 years old for purposes of regular elections, plebiscites, referenda, etc.

Lastly, the election watchdog asked the lawmakers to repeal the provisions in Republic Acts No. 8189 and 9189 as amended by RA 10590, which serve as a ground for deactivation of any person who did not vote in the two successive preceding regular elections.

"Voters should not be penalized for the failure to exercise their right to choose our leaders, and then line up before sunrise to apply for reactivation," NAMFREL said.

"Instead, they should be encouraged to vote through the adoption of voting technology (for example, Internet voting) and/or mechanisms (polling places close to their residences), and enlightened on the importance of their choice and how they can exercise it," they added.

If the reason for including failure to vote as a ground for deactivation is that those who failed to vote may have done so because of death, NAMFREL said this could be addressed by the PSA and the civil registrars nationwide by submitting information on deceased persons to the Comelec.

"NAMFREL believes that these measures will greatly help make the voter registration process more efficient, less costly, and more convenient for Filipinos."

In the report containing the recommendations to Congress, NAMFREL also raised the need for stricter implementation of health protocols, further training of personnel on procedures as prescribed in Comelec guidelines, implementation of measures to further decongest registration centers including the use of an appointments system, and further exploration of more ways to conduct registration activities remotely or electronically, among others.

NAMFREL said these administrative recommendations will help enhance future voter registration and the preparations for the conduct of the 2022 Barangay and SK elections. —Hana Bordey/KBK, GMA News