Senate asks Comelec to extend voter registration period for a month

Senate asks Comelec to extend voter registration period for a month

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA – The Senate on Tuesday night asked the Commission on
Elections (Comelec) to extend the voter registration period for one
month to prevent disenfranchisement of voters, especially the new
voters.

During the hybrid plenary session, the Senate adopted Resolution No.
851 urging the Comelec to extend the deadline for voter registration
from September 30, 2021, to October 31, 2021 “to prevent voter
disenfranchisement brought about by the COVID-19.”

In a privilege speech, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, who is also
sponsor of the resolution said the September 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 said.

Pangilinan presented video footage taken by news channels showing the
plight of Filipinos who queued in long lines when voter registration
resumed in Metro Manila last September 6 after the enhanced community
quarantine (ECQ) was lifted in the National Capital Region+ and other
cities that were placed under ECQ.

While the Comelec announced that volunteer registration hours would be
from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays
and holidays, registrations were cut-off at an earlier hour.

Pangilinan cited the case of a youth volunteer who was told that the
cut-off was 2:30 p.m. after he arrived at the Comelec office in Quezon
City at 3 p.m. He was also told that only 300 registrants were
accommodated.

Aside from the fear of being infected with COVID-19, Pangilinan said
there are other stumbling blocks why people could not register, such
as filled-up slots, lack of time and money to go to the Comelec
offices, and worse, some policemen manning the long lines discouraged
them to line up.

“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
stressed.

The senator pointed out that in previous elections since 2001, voter
registration deadlines were set on or beyond October 31.

“The Supreme Court itself recognized the Comelec’s power to set the
deadline of voter registration, so long as no registration may be done
during the period starting 120 days before a regular election,”
Pangilinan said.

“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. Only one month,”
he said.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri, Senators Risa
Hontiveros and Imee Marcos supported Pangilinan’s call to extend the
deadline for voter registration.

Aside from Pangilinan, those who signed SRN 851 were Senate President
Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon,
Senators Nancy Binay, Leila De Lima, Hontiveros and Joel Villanueva.

“This measure, it’s the sense of the Senate anyway, it really is just
the sense of the Senate, maybe they can come up with a shorter period
but the most important thing is we continue registering our new voters
as long as we can. As long as we possibly can,” Zubiri said.

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