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Comelec says voter registration extension unlikely

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday urged eligible Filipino voters to register on or before the January 31 deadline, saying registration for the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) is not likely to be extended.

In a television interview, Comelec chairman George Garcia said the poll body could not think of any reason why there should be an extension as they have informed the public of the initiative and launched its Register Anywhere Project (RAP), which allows qualified voters to register at booths in certain establishments like malls, even if they do not reside in that area.

“‘Yung mga kababayan po natin [to our countrymen], don’t expect any extension. The deadline will be January 31. Come out and register,” Garcia said in a CNN Philippines interview.

“It’s really not a good idea to always extend and extend if there is a deadline. ‘Yung Filipino mentality natin na bukas na lang, that’s not good as far as registration is concerned. So, we will stick to the January 31…and there should be no more excuses for our people not to register.”

He, however, said the Comelec may consider an extension in certain areas where voter registration was hampered because of flooding due to the recent weather disturbances.

So far, Garcia said Comelec registration sites nationwide have received at least 1,028,000 applications since they opened on December 12, 2022. The poll body is targeting to have 1.5 million to 2 million new voters registered until the January 31 deadline.

Comelec on Monday partnered with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to pilot launch the RAP under the agency’s One-Stop-Shop Serbilis On-the-Go.

Supplemental budget

With more new voters expected to register before the end of the month, Garcia said the Comelec will be asking Congress at least P3 billion supplemental budget to fund the additional expenses of the poll body for the conduct of the BSKE, given that it was rescheduled from December 5, 2022 to October 2023.

“Based on our estimate, we will be able to register at least 1.3 to 1.5 million, maybe we’ll be asking an amount of at least P3 billion for the additional expenses that we’ll be incurring,” he said.

Garcia said he is hoping Comelec would be able to request for the additional budget by the second or third week of February once the voter registration comes to an end.

For the supposed 2022 BSKE, the Comelec was given P8.4 billion. Even as the BSKE was moved to 2023, Garcia said the P3 billion supplemental budget was already a decrease from the previous P10 billion additional budget it requested from Congress.

The poll chairman said that if this supplemental budget was approved, this will also fund the possible increase in the honoraria for teachers who will render services for the 2023 BSKE by P2,000 each.

Garcia announced Saturday that there will be no increase in the teacher’s honoraria as the poll body was not granted an additional budget for such.

Electoral Board chairmen will receive P6,000; P5,000 for the Electoral Board members; and P4,000 for precinct workers, according to Garcia.

Further, he said the printing of 91 million ballots for the 2023 BSKE, including their verification, are expected to be finished by the second week of February.

Meanwhile, the procurement process of election paraphernalia has already been completed.  —KBK, GMA Integrated News