By Melissa Luz Lopez | CNN Philippines
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 18) – The online precinct finder of the Commission on Elections is slated to be in service again by January 2022, months ahead of the elections.
"For the precinct finder, it will be available only after the finalization of the list of voters... Kapag po final na ang database in December, we can make it available in January," Comelec Information Technology Department Director Jeannie Flororita told the Senate Finance Committee on Monday.
The precinct finder indicates where a voter should proceed to cast their ballot come election day by encoding personal information. In 2016, a massive data breach hit the Precinct Finder web app and was said to have compromised the voter database and other internal Comelec databases.
The Comelec said local election officers have been directed to finalize the number of precincts and voting centers needed to accommodate all registered voters.
Polling precincts used in the 2019 midterm elections are currently under review and may be transferred if the area is being used as a quarantine facility, the location is congested, or the local political situation is "volatile," according to Comelec's new rules.
Comelec offices would also need to finalize precinct assignments per voter, which can only be done after the voter registration period that ends Oct. 30. A maximum of 800 voters can be assigned per clustered precinct, down from 1,000 in the previous polls to enforce physical distancing due to the COVID-19 crisis.
There are now 63.7 million registered voters as of Sept. 30, where 6.1 million are first-time voters. Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas said he expects between 350,000 to 500,000 more Filipinos to sign up this month, for a total of over 64 million possible voters on May 9.
During the hearing, Senator Imee Marcos asked Comelec if it can reopen the voter registration process for Filipinos abroad, saying thousands more have not yet signed up to vote next year.
The poll body earlier gave a two-week extension for overseas voters to register at Philippine embassies and consular offices, which ended on Oct. 14.
Like in Metro Manila, there were long lines of last-minute registrants in areas like Hong Kong and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Marcos said additional registration days may be offered only in countries with a high number of Filipino residents.
Abas said the Comelec en banc will consider the proposal on Wednesday.
"Pag-uusapan namin kung kaya pa naming i-stretch ‘yung sa OFOV (overseas voting). Stretched na stretched na po siya pero i-try pa rin namin [We will discuss if we can still stretch the deadline further for overseas voting. It's already very stretched but we'll still try]," Abas said.