Senators ready resolution to ask Comelec to extend voter listing


Seven senators lined up Thursday as initial authors of a proposed Senate Resolution prodding the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to extend the deadline for voter registration from September 30 to October 31 to prevent voter disenfranchisement caused by the strict lockdowns forced by the Covid-19 pandemic, which further shortened the remaining number of registration days.

The still unnumbered Resolution is expected to be tackled in plenary deliberations soon as Congress reconvenes on Monday, August 23.

Listed as initial co-authors were: Senators Francis Pangilinan, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Minority Leader Frank Drilon, Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, and Joel Villanueva.

At the outset, the Senate Resolution affirmed the Comelec’s constitutional mandate to “enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum, and recall,” acknowledging it “has the power to determine periods to accomplish pre-election activities, such as voter registration.”

It added, though, that “registration is part and parcel of the right to vote and an indispensable element in the election process.”

The Resolution invoked Section 8 of Republic Act No. 8189 or the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996, which provides that COMELEC shall establish a system of continuing registration of voters.  

However, it states that no registration shall be conducted during the period starting one hundred twenty (120) days before a regular election and ninety (90) days before a special election.

The Resolution also noted that the poll body promulgated COMELEC Resolution No. 105496 on July 18, 2019 and COMELEC Resolution No. 106357 on January 10, 2020, setting voter registration for the May 9, 2022 National and Local Elections (NLE) from January 20, 2020 until September 30, 2021.

It adds that “on March 9, 2020, COMELEC suspended voter registration starting March 10, 2020 due to the COVID-19. After a series of extensions, voter registration was suspended until August 31, 2020 or more than five and a half months.

The Resolution also notes that on August 12, 2020, COMELEC promulgated its Resolution No. 10674 which set protocols on conducting voter registration under the new normal.

It further adds that under COMELEC Resolution No. 10674, voter registration in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) shall be suspended for the duration of the ECQ or MECQ status.

The Resolution also recalled that in late March 2021, voter registration in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite (NCR Plus), was suspended due to the imposition of ECQ and/or MECQ.12 Voter registration in NCR Plus resumed after nearly two months on May 17, 2021, when quarantine restrictions relaxed to general community quarantine on May 15, 202113;

In early August 2021, it added, COMELEC again suspended voter registration in ECQ and MECQ areas, including Metro Manila, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Lucena, etc., for at least two weeks14;

It added that in a hearing of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation on February 18, 2021, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) mentioned that the projected voting population for the 2022 NLE is at 73.3 million. As of June 2021, the COMELEC said that there are around 60 million registered voters as of June 2021, leaving around 13.3 million unregistered potential voters.

The Resolution further adds  that “while it is also important for COMELEC to have enough time to prepare the final list of voters, which is a prerequisite for the preparation and completion of the Project of Precincts (POP), “a one-month extension will not unduly hamper or delay COMELEC’s preparation of the POP.”

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