Lower House approves bill extending voters registration by 30 days

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the bill proposing to compel the Commission on Elections to extend for one month the registration of voters originally scheduled to end on Thursday, Sept. 30.

House of Representatives plenary

With all 193 congressmen present at the regular session on Monday, Sept. 27 voting in the affirmative, House Bill 10261 was approved on final reading and will be consolidated with the Senate version that was set for passage on the same day.

Authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano, HB 10261 provides for another 30 days of registration after its effectivity as a law.

HB 10261 directs the Comelec to conduct another 30 days of registration of voters even beyond the Sept. 30 deadline it imposed.

. “We hope the Comelec will use the one-month extension to ramp up voter registration and ensure that more people can vote next year because we cannot afford to disenfranchise voters,” Velasco said.

Velasco led the Lower House in pushing for an extension of voter’s registration as he noted that the usual hours allotted for the proceeding has been cut by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Makabayan bloc that also filed a similar bill warned of massive disenfranchisement of voters if the time allotted for registration is cut short.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that under the Republic Act 8189 or the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996, the period of voters registration should be until January 9, 2022 or 120 days before the May 9, 2022 elections.

“If House Bill No. 10261 and Senate Bill No. 2408 are enacted into law, the continuing registration of voters for the May 9, 2022 elections will be shortened from January 9, 2022 to sometime in November, 2021, thereby depriving potential qualified Filipino registrants a total of about 60 days more within which to register,” said Lagman although he voted for the final reading passage of the House measure.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that 73 million voters are qualified to participate in the May 2022 polls.

However, the Comelec revealed that as of August 23, only about 61 million have registered to participate in next year’s polls.

Lawmakers aired the possibility that at least 12 million will not be able to vote unless the registration of voters is extended.

Velasco strongly believes that the extension of voter registration would prevent “massive voter disenfranchisement” given the “extraordinary circumstances” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.