Manila Standard : 6.5M voters deactivated —COMELEC

16 September 2021

By Manila Standard

The Commission on Elections has called on “deactivated” voters numbering around 6.5 million or those who did not vote during the two consecutive elections to reactivate their status and be able to cast their ballots in the 2022 national and local elections.

Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said they can reactivate [their status as registered voter], thru an email to the Comelec,]. The email of Comelec regional offices are there for those who were not able to vote for two consecutive national elections,” Guanzon said.

The deadline of registration to vote for 2022 polls is September 30, although the Senate has adopted a resolution urging the poll body to extend the voter registration period given that quarantine restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic has limited people’s mobility.

Guanzon, however, said the Comelec has yet to decide on such extension.

The filing of candidacy for the 2022 polls is scheduled from October 1 to 8, and the Comelec has set the venue at Sofitel Hotel tent in Pasay City for a more spacious venue, given the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has also prompted the COMELEC to only allow one companion per candidate who is filing certificate of candidacy. Antigen COVID-19 test will be provided for free by the Comelec, but the cost of the COVID-19 test of the companion will not be shouldered by the poll body.

Comelec said it would entail an additional P8 billion budget next year to reduce the number of registered voters per clustered precinct during the 2022 national and local elections.

During the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System hearing, Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice raised the need to reduce the number of voters per clustered precinct.This, Erice said, would ensure that health protocols are followed during next year’s polls, considering the health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, four of 10 possible voter registration days in Metro Manila were lost due to the lockdowns, stressed Senator Francis Pangilinan after the Senate on Tuesday night adopted a resolution urging the Comelec to extend the voter registration deadline from September 30 to October 31, 2021.

Because of the suspensions, which ran for about five and a half months, Pangilinan said that around 28.3% of voter registration days were lost. He said this does not include the days when registration was suspended due to the recent typhoons that entered the country.

Erice said there might be problems in observing social distancing even if the poll body extends the voting hours to 12 to 14 hours.

Poll commissioner Marlon Casquejo then said the Comelec needs additional 10,000 vote counting machines (VCMs) to lower the number of voters per clustered precinct.

So far, the number of existing VCMs are sufficient to cater 1,000 voters per clustered precinct.

“We lack budget for this but we have savings in the Comelec which we can use for the additional 10,000 VCMs,” Casquejo said.

“So, the cost of 10,000 [VCMs] is roughly additional P1 billion plus the manpower for the additional clustered precincts, our electoral boards, and the support and everything, as computed by the finance department we need at least I think P8 billion. I guess ‘yun ang naging computation last time,” he said.

Should the Comelec lower the number of voters per clustered precinct to 600, Casquejo said they need 20,000 additional VCMs.

Last week, the Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) declared a failure of bidding for the lease of additional 10,000 VCMs for next year’s polls.

According to Comelec SBAC chairperson Allen Francis Abaya, there was a failure of bidding because the lone bidder -- Smartmatic -- did not participate or submit a bidding proposal due to insufficient approved budget for the contract (ABC).

Abaya said they will do a second bidding round once the additional ABC budget is approved by the Comelec project management office around October.

While it is important for Comelec to be given enough time to prepare a final list of voters that is a prerequisite for the preparations and completion of its Project of Precincts (POP), Pangilinan said senators believe a one-month extension will not delay Comelec’s preparation.