Increasing capacity for voter registration

Published February 22, 2021, 6:18 AM

by Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal


Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

Many people are actively encouraging qualified Filipino citizens to register as voters.  I’ve been discussing the process of applying as a voter in various parts of the Philippines, and I can already feel the increased interest people have in applying as a registered voter.  On the different platforms on social media, more and more people are also talking about voter registration.

Last week, Comelec changed the schedule to process applicants for voter registration.  Aside from moving it from the previous Monday to Thursday schedule, to the new schedule of Tuesday till Saturday.  They also added two hours daily, with the new daily schedule of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

But even with this development, will this be enough to address the concerns of stakeholders and those who want to register as voters?  I don’t think so.  There are other important factors that have to be considered, and some steps that must be taken to process more applicants.  Some of which are:

  1. Maximum number of people that can be accommodated daily

With the 8 a.m. till 3 p.m. previous schedule, each Comelec city/municipal office would process about 50 – 60 applicants daily.  With an additional hour to accept applicants, I believe the daily applicants that can be processed can be increased to 70 people.

Some have asked if the figure above is the usual number of applicants that can be processed?  No, it’s lower than those processed daily, before the pandemic.  The number is lower now because there are protocols in place to be implemented to ensure the health and safety of not only the applicants for voter registration, but also Comelec officials and staff.

  1. Capacity is limited to the VRM (voter registration machine)

Each Comelec city/municipal office which processes the applications has a VRM.  That’s the machine where your data is inputed, including your picture and fingerprint.  Each office has one machine.  For municipalities or cities with a larger number of voters, the office will be allocated additional VRMs.

It seems some VRMs have had to be sent back to Manila for repair and/or replacement.  The end result is some Comelec offices which are supposed to have two VRMs to process more applicants, are just using one VRM.  I think Comelec must do an audit of the computers functioning, and also those which are still pending repairs, and get those computers back to the Comelec field offices. By having two instead of one machine, the number of applicants processed daily is doubled.  This is a very big help, especially for big cities, or areas where there are many people who want to register as voters.

  1. Proposal on satellite registration

The guidelines provide that satellite registration is not allowed if there’s a COVID-19 case in the city/municipality.  I suggest that the limitation be per barangay.  Because there are LGUs that have a big land area, like Zambaonga City.  By making the limitation based on barangay, it would be more feasible to conduct satellite registration, while maintaining health and safety protocols.

It would also make more sense from a safety aspect, considering many barangays in the provinces are far from the población.  It’s safer for two to three Comelec personnel to go to the barangay, instead of 50 residents of the barangay going to the Comelec office in the city/municipal center. Plus, they can verify not only the identity of the voter, but also his/her residence.

Before I end, don’t forget the new schedule for voter registration:

Tuesday till Saturday

8:00 a.m. till 4:00 p.m.

Note:  Comelec processes applications for voter registration even on holidays.