Manila Bulletin - The drive for voter education

News & Interviews
18 January 2021

By Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal | Manila Bulletin

#ASKGOYO

Voter education is something I’ve been pushing for, even after retiring from Comelec in February, 2011. It sometimes feels like a lonely road, as voter education becomes “sexy” only when election approaches. However, the need to hammer to the public the importance of your vote is crucial, if we want to reach our goal of democratic maturity.

Last year, I noticed that on social media, more and more people have been encouraging others to register and vote. That’s a very good development, and I hope it’s sustained. Last week, I decided to continue with the advocacy in promoting voter education and voter empowerment and went on the road to encourage more people to register as voters. I drove from Metro Manila all the way to Cagayan de Oro City, stopping by Tagum City to attend the launch of the voter education program of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. I intend to do this regularly, driving to various parts of the country (always following health and safety protocols). Promoting voter empowerment on the ground is an effective way of reminding people to register as voters.

We all need to do this. We need to help each other to encourage people to register as voters, because the number of people who applied as new voters is very bad. Specifically, in Metro Manila from September-December, 2020 the data is scary low. The numbers are:

New application: 4,227.

Transfer from other location: 1,596.

Transfer within NCR: 159.

Transfer with Reactivation: 80.

Reactivation: 357.

Transfer with correction of entries: 36.

Transfer with Reactivation & Correction: 19.

Reactivation with Correction: 105.

Change of Names/Change Entries: 166.

Transfer from OAV: 44.

Total Processed: 6,789.

Male: 3,098.

Female: 3,691.

Under normal conditions, six to eight thousand applicants is what a SINGLE city/municipality can accept and process in less than a month. There are 16 cities and one municipality in Metro Manila (National Capital Region). If you do a conservative number of one hundred applicants processed daily every week (usually it’s up to three hundred), from Monday till Thursday (instead of the regular Monday till Saturday), that means each city/district can process 1,600 applicants every month. That should translate to about 48,000 applications processed monthly for NCR (which is a very conservative number). The current number of applications is only less than 5 percent of that conservative number.

Including this January, there’s still nine months to apply as a voter, have your registration transfered, reactivate your voter registration, etc. Nine months might seem like a long time to many, but that’s not much time left. Many will procrastinate, and just decide to register at the last minute. The problem with this is that, with the pandemic expected to last well into 2022/2023, it will be difficult to register at the end because of the expected big crowd congregating in the Comelec offices. Knowing some people, they will simply opt not to do it, because of the fear of large crowds. In many Comelec offices now, there’s only a few people processed daily. So the best time to register as a voter is as early as you can do it. In many offices, you don’t even need to fill up the online application and appointment form. You can simply go to the City/Municipal Comelec office to register. Just don’t forget your face mask, face shield, alcohol, pen, valid IDs, and proof of residency.

I am encouraged by the number of civic organizations, celebrities, politicians, bloggers and influencers who are spreading the word about voter registration. There are some corporations currently contemplating doing programs to encourage people to register as voters. This is a very good direction for them, if they decide to push through with it. I’ve spoken with some, and if there are others who need help in doing a voter empowerment program, I’m always willing to help.

The May 9, 2022, election is an extremely important election. Let’s work together to get as many people to register as voters.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Value your right to vote.