Extend Voter Registration to October, Senate Prods Comelec

To prevent disenfranchisement of voters.
Photo/s: Jerome Ascaño

(UPDATE) Senators on Monday prodded Comelec to extend the voter registration period by one month, or until Oct. 31, to prevent the "disenfranchisement" of  those who have yet to sign up for the 2022 elections.

The chamber adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 17 which urges the Commission on Elections to move the Sept. 30 deadline.

The Senate last week adopted a separate resolution for the same purpose, but a concurrent resolution carries more weight as it will be approved by both houses of Congress. Sen. Francis Pangilinan, its principal author, said Speaker Lord Allan Velasco agreed to support the measure.

The Comelec previously resolved to keep the deadline for voter registration on Sept. 30, saying that extending it would affect their preparations for the 2022 elections.

Citing data from Comelec and the Philippine Statistics Authority, Pangilinan said that the non-extension of the deadline would result in the massive disenfranchisement of at least 12 million eligible voters.

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"We reiterate our desire and wish that the Comelec heed our call for an extension even just one month precisely because our first-time voters are raring to register. They are lining up for hours to be able to register," he said.

"The least that the Comelec can do is not disenfranchise these voters and extend by one month," he added.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon suggested two ways to compel Comelec to extend the voter registration period: to pressure the commission to heed their call under threat of a slashed budget for 2022, or to pass a one-sentence bill moving the voter registration deadline to Oct. 31, 2021.

"I think there is a valid point in denying them the appropriation of certain public funds when their very action would be contrary to public interest," Drilon said.

The Comelec is set to present its proposed P42 billion budget for 2022 before the Senate on Friday.

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Also following Drilon's suggestion, the Senate is rushing to pass a bill mandating the extension of the voter registration deadline to Oct. 31, which they seek to approve before the session break on Sept. 29.

In response,  Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the commission has yet to change its decision to keep the deadline for voter registration on Sept. 30.

"Congress unquestionably holds the power of the purse. For its part, Comelec --- as the sole government entity tasked with the conduct of elections --- can only do its utmost to ensure that it fulfills its mandate to hold secure, accurate, and free and fair elections," he added.

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