The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday, September 15, apologized to lawmakers over its decision not to extend the registration period for voters in the 2022 elections.
During a briefing of the Comelec before the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System, Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said the Comelec en banc has already decided that they will not prolong the voters’ registration beyond September 30.
“We regret to inform this body that the Comelec en banc has already decided unanimously that there will be no extension of the registrations,” Casquejo told the Senate and House panels.
“It wil be up to September 30, 2021. So pasensya na po (We apologize),” he said.
Casquejo explained that the poll body is also pressed for time in preparing for the 2022 elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Mahirap na po magkaroon ng extension because there are so many preparations na maapektuhan po (that will be affected). We cannot compromise those other preparations because of the pandemic situation,” he said.
The Senate, on Tuesday, September 14, adopted a resolution asking the Comelec to extend the voter registration period for one month.
Senate-adopted Resolution No. 851 calls for an extension from September 30, 2021 to October 31, 2021 “to prevent voter disenfranchisement brought about by the COVID-19.”
Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, a sponsor of the resolution, pointed out that the September deadline was set before the pandemic.
“It is a pre-pandemic deadline. Nobody could have anticipated how this public health emergency would severely impact our daily lives, let alone voter registration,” he said.
During his privilege speech, Pangilinan lamented that Filipinos queued in long lines when voter registration resumed in Metro Manila last September 6, after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the region.
Registrations were also cut-off early, accommodating a limited number of applicants, he raised.
Pangilinan said there are other stumbling blocks why people could not register, such as filled-up slots, lack of time and money to go to the Comelec offices.
“While it is important for Comelec to be given enough time to prepare a final list of voters that is a prerequisite for the preparation and completion of its Project of Precincts or POP, we believe that a one-month extension will not delay Comelec’s preparation,” he stressed.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri also supported call.
“This measure, it’s the sense of the Senate anyway, it really is just the sense of the Senate, maybe they can come up with a shorter period but the most important thing is we continue registering our new voters as long as we can. As long as we possibly can,” Zubiri proposed.
A committee in the House of Representatives also approved a separate resolution urging the constitutional body to reconsider its decision.