By Ben Rosario | Manila Bulletin
Anticipating rejection by the Commission on Elections of its appeal to extend voters registration, the House of Representatives moved on Wednesday, Sept. 22 to pass a bill making it mandatory for the poll body to abide by its wishes.
In House Bill 10261, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, together with Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano sought to compel Comelec to extend the Sept. 30 deadline for voter registration for another month.
A similar bill was filed on the same day in the Senate.
Leaders of the two legislative chambers are expected to fasttrack passage of the measure.
Filing of HB 10261 came just a week after the Lower Chamber adopted House Resolution 2231 containing an appeal to the Comelec to heed calls to extend the voter registration deadline to October 31, 2021.
HR 2231 was authored by six members of the Makabayan bloc, together with Reps. Jocelyn Limkaichong (1st District, Negros Oriental); Edgar Erice (2nd District, Caloocan City); Gabriel Bordado (3rd District, Camarines Sur); Josephine Sato Ramirez (Mindoro Occidental); Jose Christopher Belmonte (6th District, Quezon City); and Emmanuel Billones (1st District, Capiz).
In filing HB 10261 authors warned Comelec that failing to extend the voter registration may result to “massive voter disenfranchisement” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At a time of uncertainty, each and every office of the government is tasked to be flexible and alert,” the House leaders said in the bill’s explanatory note.
They added: “In order to avoid massive disenfranchisement, the [Comelec] must extend the period for voter registration until 31 October 2021. This is also to give leeway to Filipinos whose registration were delayed because of the prevailing circumstances.” With barely eight months before the 2022 general elections, the House leaders said it is important that every qualified Filipino will be able to cast a ballot and vote for the country’s next leaders.
The conduct of regular elections, they said, are crucial events in the life of a democratic nation.
“As a basic precept of democracy, each of our kababayans must be given the utmost and widest opportunity to participate in the electoral process,” they added.
According to the House leaders, voter registration would have been an ordinary concern if there had been no pandemic.
“But we are living under extraordinary circumstances,” they pointed out. “The public health crisis has been prolonged and many prospective voters have been forced to delay their registration this year and in 2020.”