ABS-CBN News : Senator eyes legislation allowing digital registration of voters during pandemic

5 April 2021

By Katrina Domingo | ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Sen. Imee Marcos on Monday said she is eyeing to craft a bill that would allow the digital registration of voters as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reduce the number of registered voters for the 2022 national elections.

Congress needs to pass a law to amend the current policy that requires voters to be physically present when registering in Commission on Elections (Comelec) offices, said Marcos, chair of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation.

"'Yung registration ng mga new voters eh naantala nang sunod-sunod dahil ine-extend ang ECQ," the senator told reporters in an online press conference.

(The registration of new voters has been hampered by the extension of the ECQ.)

Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal have been placed under enhanced community quarantine from March 29 until April 11 to curb the alarming rise in new COVID-19 cases.

The registration of voters for the May 2022 elections ends on September 30 this year.

"Gusto natin na remote or digital registration na lang… Gagawin na lang nating automatic," Marcos said.

(We want it to become remote or digital registration… We want to make it automatic.)

Without amending the law, the Philippines may be "stuck with the same laws pre-COVID," which might hinder some voters from registering, the senator said, citing prevailing quarantine rules and travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

"Kapag wala pa sa 50 percent sa new voters ang hindi nakaboto, parating may duda sa isipan natin kung 'yun talaga ang boto ng taumbayan," she said.

(If less than 50 percent of new voters fail to register, there will always be doubts on the results of the polls.)

But with less than a month remaining in the Senate's official calendar, Marcos said it is uncertain if the bill digitizing voter registration would be passed into law.

The Senate is currently adjourned, and will only resume session on May 17. The chamber is expected to close the second regular session of the 18th Congress on June 4.

"Napakahirap talaga (ng schedule)… kasi 'yung priority bills ngayon puro tungkol sa ekonomiya," said Marcos, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.

(Scheduling is really very difficult because the priority bills right now are all about the economy.)

Last month, the Comelec said it would start accepting online filing of petitions for registration of party-list organizations and political parties, after ECQ was re-imposed in Metro Manila, as well as in its surrounding provinces.