By Melissa Luz Lopez | CNN Philippines
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 26) – A former official of the Commission on Elections offers a counter proposal to calls to extend the voter registration deadline beyond September 30.
Lawyer Gregorio Larrazabal, who served as Comelec commissioner until 2011, said registration activities should already resume in Metro Manila and other areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
Filipinos in Metro Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Bataan, Iloilo, and other provinces under lockdown cannot apply as new voters or transfer and update their personal records. Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said this is in keeping with the government's goal to limit new COVID-19 infections.
Registration activities are ongoing in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ until next month from Mondays to Saturdays, including holidays.
"The more efficient way of doing it is to allow the people to register during the inclusive period," Larrazabal told CNN Philippines.
"Metro Manila is under MECQ now but banks are open, supermarkets are open, even malls are open. There are many shops that are open, but you won't allow people to register as voters? It doesn't make sense," he added. "I think more than prioritizing people to buy lotion or soda or snacks, allow them the opportunity to involve themselves in the electoral process by registering as a voter even during MECQ."
Larrazabal, who once headed the steering committee for the 2010 presidential and local elections, said Comelec should raise the matter with the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force as soon as possible.
The poll body should also consider opening Sunday registrations in September to accommodate those under lockdown this month, he added.
Since August 23, Comelec offices are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday in non-lockdown areas.
"I'm sure not everybody who failed to register within the period we were under the ECQ will be able to register. But if it allows 10,000 more people to register, that's still 10,000 more people who will be able to vote on May 9, 2022," Larrazabal said.
Comelec has repeatedly rejected calls to extend the registration period as it will affect other preparations for next year's polls. There are over 61 million eligible voters next year based on the commission's latest tally.