Jesuit-run universities on Mindanao urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday, Oct. 13, to open more satellite registration sites.
Presidents of three Ateneo universities in Mindanao asked the poll body to increase the number of satellite voter registration sites by partnering with universities and colleges.
Ateneo de Davao University President Fr. Joel E. Tabora said the registration cap per day “dispirits first-time voters instead of encouraging them.”
“We received reports showing that some Comelec centers do not only close earlier than extended registration hour of 7 p.m, but also disrespect the fast-tracking mechanism by not making use of the online pre-registration forms,” Tabora noted.
Of the 73 million qualified voters in the Philippines, Comelec said they have already reached 63 million who have successfully registered, surpassing their target of 61 million registrants.
However, around 10 million, many of these are young people, are still unable to register for various reasons including the risk brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ateneo de Zamboanga University President Fr. Karel S. San Juan SJ emphasized that balancing the right to vote and the right to health “requires creativity” as he prodded the poll body to partner with schools to become satellite registration sites.
“The right to vote and the right to health are equally important. Ensuring that people are able to cast their votes and securing their safety from COVID-19 are both goods to be preserved. Disenfranchisement needs to be avoided just as we must avoid the deadly virus,” San Juan stressed.
The Mindanao Ateneo presidents offered their spaces for registration to reach out to the still unregistered 10 million Filipinos and expressed confidence that other schools would share their position.
“School would employ the same safety protocols as to when they opened their doors to help out in the vaccination roll-out,” Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan President Fr. Mars P. Tan said.
“Exploring mobile registration activities to remote areas can also be an option to make registration accessible to voters in the margins,” he added.
Voter registration is from Monday to Friday until Oct. 30. Comelec offices will entertain voter applicants from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.