23 senators file bill seeking to extend voter registration

Published September 22, 2021, 3:55 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Twenty-three (23) senators have filed a bill that seeks a one month extension for the voter registration for the May 2022 national and local elections.

All members, except for Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, supported Senate Bill No. 2408 which the senators filed last Monday. It was sponsored in plenary on Tuesday.

The bill seeks to extend the voter registration period to October 31, 2021. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has set the deadline on September 30.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, it is necessary to extend the voter registration, in order to give unregistered Filipinos of voting age ample time to register, and eventually exercise their constitutional right to vote and avoid disenfranchisement of large number of qualified voters,” the senators said.

In filing the bill, the senators pointed out the poll body had set the September 30, 2021 deadline before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. Due to the series of lockdowns especially in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ, the number of voters who registered was affected.

The senators noted that as of June 2021, Comelec reported that there are around 60 million registered voters for the 2022 elections. This is short of the 73.3 million projected voting population reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in February 2021.

“As a result of the series of suspension of voter registration, the Filipino people have been clamoring for the extension of the deadline of voter registration,” the senators said.

“Comelec has the prerogative to set the deadline of voter registration on a later date but before January 9,2022, taking into consideration this public health emergency, in order to prevent voter disenfranchisement,” they also said.

The poll body has repeatedly rejected the proposal to move the deadline to October 31, 2021 but has extended the voter registration hours.

In the bill, the senators pointed out a 2015 Supreme Court decision on the case of Comelec vs. Kabataan Party-list recognized that Comelec has the authority to set deadline of voter registration, provided that no registration can be done during the period starting 120 days before a regular elections.

They also pointed out that the SC acknowledged Comelec’s prerogative in setting the deadline for registration, taking into consideration administrative necessities and other exigencies in setting the date.

Last Monday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon threatened to cut the proposed 2022 budget of Comelec to the “barest minimum” should they resist calls to extend the voter registration.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, has vowed to support the measure, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

The Senate earlier adopted a resolution urging the Comelec to extend the voter registration period by one month to prevent “voter disenfranchisement” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms had also adopted two resolutions urging the poll body to extend the deadline last Sept. 2.