By Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Meg Adonis | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has rejected calls to extend the voter registration period beyond the Sept. 30 deadline because doing so would affect the timeline of preparations for the elections set for May 9.
Majority of the six-member commission also rejected the extension because of the “significant continuing apprehensions about the health and safety of the public and the Comelec personnel,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said on Wednesday.
“The commission is concerned that if we delay the end of voter registration, it will also cause corresponding delays in all other preparatory activities, especially those which depend on the finalization of the list of voters,” Jimenez said at an online briefing.
“That will have a potentially adverse effect on the timelines in the preparations for the presidential elections,” he added.
Instead, Jimenez said the Comelec unanimously approved extending the voting registration hours up to 7 p.m. from the current 5 p.m., and to open Comelec offices on Saturdays and holidays up to 5 p.m. to accept voter registration.
Around 5.7 million new voters have so far registered. There are over 60 million registered voters in the country, according to the Comelec.
The poll body announced the extended hours as students from Catholic schools De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University argued that millions of young voters have yet to list because of quarantine restrictions.
“We need to join forces to encourage the Comelec to extend the registration for the 2022 elections. A lot of youth have not registered yet because they don’t have access to precincts due to the [enhanced community quarantine, or ECQ]. This is totally beyond their control,” said student leader Raeyan Reposar of 1Sambayan Youth.
Reposar said 1Sambayan estimates that some 12 million Filipinos have not been able to register and the group continues to encourage the youth to list up and vote.
He said 1Sambayan has formed more chapters in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines as well as schools in Western Visayas, Olongapo City, General Santos City, Baguio City, Bicol and the provinces of Rizal and Southern Leyte.
“Our goal here is not just to tell people to register and to vote. Our goal is to give a venue for people to actively participate so that they can empower other people to actively participate as well,” he said.
The Comelec itself has said that voter registration and the issuance of voter’s certification would be suspended in areas under ECQ.
1Sambayan youth leaders said they were preparing “on-the-ground” activities that would encourage the youth to participate in the national elections.
“We can do plans of action to respond to the needs of the Filipinos now in terms of creating personal ideas, and responding to their needs in terms of installing new leaders in our country,” said Angelo Lescano, spokesperson for 1Sambayan Lasalyano.