By Macon Ramos-Araneta and Maricel Cruz, Vito Barcelo | Manila Standard
With only three days left before the Comelec deadline, the House of Representatives and the Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to extend voter registration until October 31, 2021.
Senators voted 23-0-0 in approving the measure that extends the registration of voters for the 2022 elections to October 31, 2021.
The House of Representatives, on the other hand, approved the counterpart measure by a vote of 193.
Once the bill is enacted into law, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be compelled to extend the voter registration period, which ends on September 30.
“We hope the Comelec will use the one-month extension to ramp up voter registration and ensure that more people can vote next year because we cannot afford to disenfranchise voters,” Speaker Lord Alan Velasco said.
“The right to vote in an election is one essential part of the democratic process, and the Comelec is duty-bound to make sure that all eligible voters are able to register and exercise their right of suffrage,” Velasco said.
Comelec said there are already about 61 million registered voters as of September 21, 2021.
However, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that there are 73 million voters who are qualified to participate in the May 2022 polls.
Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas earlier rejected the request of lawmakers to extend the registration until the 31st of October as it will allegedly delay the election timeline.
Instead, Abas proposed to extend the period of registration only for first time voters and only for a week after the filling of the certificates of candidacy.
Meanwhile, the Comelec warned political candidates from campaigning early but admitted premature campaigning outside of the prescribed elections period does not violate existing election laws.
Under the Comelec’s calendar of activities for the 2022 polls, the campaign period for candidates in national positions starts on February 8, 2022.
Candidates in local elective positions can begin campaigning only on March 25, 2022.
“That is only the start of the campaign that candidates would be covered by the campaign rules,” poll spokesman James Jimenez said.