By Cecille Suerte Felipe | The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines — The joint congressional oversight committee on elections is urging the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend voter registration by two weeks to prevent massive disenfranchisement during the general elections next year.
Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said the poll body’s proposal is a one-week extension, considering the tight schedule for preparation for the elections during the pandemic.
“The majority of our preparations (for the elections) will be affected with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Casquejo told the joint congressional oversight committee on automated election system, co-chaired by Sen. Imee Marcos and Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr.
“Let’s do two weeks,” Barzaga said. “According to them, they are amenable to the one-week (extension) after Oct. 15.”
Marcos suggested that a two-week extension is better to “accommodate those who are locked down and it’s really very difficult (to register), the queue (of registrants) is five hours, six hours.”
On Wednesday, senators approved on second reading Senate Bill 2408 or an Act Extending the Registration of Voters for the 2022 National and Local Elections.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who filed the bill, is urging Comelec to extend the registration to Oct. 31. The current deadline is Sept. 30.
“Given that the registration period was suspended for over five months due to various community lockdowns across the country, it is only right that we push the deadline back, and give our people a chance to come out and register, and exercise their right of suffrage,” Zubiri explained.
Casquejo said the Comelec already ruled twice not to extend the voters’ registration. “However, we are also aware of the pending bill even if it is not approved mandating the Comelec to extend the registration… if that bill will be passed as a law, then we will comply.”
“But then again, our appeal, considering that it is pandemic, our proposal is to give us a one-week extension after the filing of the COCs,” he added.
Marcos said there is a huge difference between the weeklong extension being proposed by the Comelec and the one-month being asked by the legislature.
“The deadline used to be in October. Why was it shortened even more when the pandemic has caused so many lockdowns?” she asked, noting that the lockdowns have affected mobility.
She pointed out that the 61.1 million voters registered so far are still low when compared to the 73.3 million qualified voters in the records of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Casquejo tried to justify the early deadline by pointing to the preparations needed for an election amid the pandemic.