By Vito Barcelo and Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard
At least 7 million voters were deactivated by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ahead of the 2022 national elections due to non-participation in two consecutive elections or other reasons, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said Wednesday.
“Under the Voter’s Registration Act, a registration may be deactivated if the voter fails to cast his ballot in two successive regular elections,” Guanzon said.
She said those who had their accounts deleted or deactivated are those who did not vote for the last two consecutive elections, adding that “only 700,000 have returned to Comelec offices and registered again.”
The Comelec said deactivation can also be done to those sentenced by a court to not less than one year in prison; persons who have committed crimes involving disloyalty to the government such as rebellion, sedition, violation of the anti-subversion and firearms laws, and those declared by a competent authority to be insane.
The law states that a voter may be deactivated if his registration has been ordered excluded by the court and he has lost his Filipino citizenship.
She said deactivated voters will only be allowed to participate in the next election after their application for reactivation is approved in the local Offices of Election Officers (OEO) during the voter registration.
The Comelec said that at least 1,050,793 voters have registered for next year’s elections as of Jan. 7.
The poll body is targeting 4 million new registrants by the end of the voter registration period on Sept. 30.
The Comelec official added that the Sept. 30 deadline for voter registration may not be extended since the filing of certificates of candidacy would already start in October this year.
Meanwhile, Senator Imee Marcos said the Senate has started discussions about the “new normal” in campaigning and face-to-face encounters, including house-to-house visits and rallies.
She said they also tackled other potential super-spreader events that ought to be limited even after mass vaccination against COVID-19.
If online and broadcast will be the preferred campaign platforms, Marcos said it is urgent that they pass a bill increasing allowable election expenses.
She cited the need for more realistic levels “with the caveat that such an increase cannot be so high as to disqualify less-wealthy candidates.”
Marcos said it will be the Comelec’s challenge, as it is for Facebook and other networks, to provide clear guidelines for monitoring social media platforms.
In this way, she said candidates do not exploit their algorithmic and ad potential, nor on the other hand, be held liable for vague, alleged violations.
“Smaller, town-hall gatherings held outdoors or properly distanced, observing health protocols and in less- infected areas may be allowed,” she said.
“But the truth is, even after vaccination, it remains unclear even to the best doctors, what can and cannot be allowed,” she added.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he considered a ban on face-to-face campaigning “too restrictive.”
Instead, he said it is likely that large gatherings will be prohibited, while small meetings of 10 to 30 people might be allowed—as long as those in attendance wear face masks and observe social distancing.
The chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 Carlito Galvez Jr. acknowledged that face-to-face campaigning posed a “big challenge and risk” saying such gatherings would enhance close contact among different people.
Galvez said he would discuss the issue with the Comelec.