THE Senate adopted Tuesday night a resolution urging the Commission on Elections to extend the voter registration deadline from September 30 to October 31, to avoid disfranchising millions of voters from the May 2022 elections.
Senators made the move after Sen. Francis Pangilinan delivered a privilege speech noting that even though Comelec said it had exceeded its target additional voters for the 2022 exercise, the fact is that millions more are desperate to register. However, they have been prevented from doing so by the complications caused by the pandemic.
He screened a video showing long lines of aspiring registrants, risking Covid infections with minimal physical distancing, in their desire to beat the deadline. Pangilinan said the Comelec itself had admitted that as a result of the lockdown restrictions since the pandemic began, so many months had been lopped off from the original period for registration.
The senator noted as well that the September 30, 2021 date “is a pre-pandemic deadline,” meaning, it was set before the health crisis began and was not amended even though numerous quarantine classifications caused the suspension of voter registration several times.
And yet, Pangilinan noted, in the 2016 and 2019 elections, the deadline for voter registration was set at October 30, not September 30. He wondered aloud at the seeming lack of logic in providing a shorter period during a pandemic, when lockdowns have deprived voters of so many registration days.
Pangilinan said many voters who remain unregistered cannot be faulted for lack of trying, saying most of them could not do so when the registration was suspended. Because of the backlog, the queues became longer and many people ventured to line up just the same, risking Covid infections from the hours it took to finish the process. Citing population data from the Philippine Statistics Agency (PSA), Pangilinan estimated that as many as 10 to 12 million more of qualified voters have not been able to vote.
Comelec had received similar urgent appeals from many sectors the past weeks, but it had repeatedly explained that extending the deadline would stretch its manpower too thinly since by October, it would have to handle several key tasks related to preparations for the May 2022 polls, such as the filing for certificates of candidacy from October 1 to 8.
Sen. Imee Marcos, who chairs the electoral reforms committee, summarized the key points of Comelec’s reasons for rejecting pleas to extend the registration period, and expressed hope a suitable compromise could be worked out.
Image courtesy of Nonie Reyes