SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to exert all efforts to ensure that every eligible Filipino can vote in the May 2022 elections, after the House of Representatives passed on second reading a bill extending the deadline for voter registration.
Velasco said the poll body should not allow the democratic process of election to be stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has the potential to cause massive voter disenfranchisement.
“The right to vote in an election is one essential part of the democratic process, and Comelec is duty-bound to make sure that all eligible voters are able to register and exercise their right of suffrage,” Velasco said.
Through viva voce voting, the legislative chamber approved on second reading Friday the amended version of House Bill 10261 fixing the last day of registration for voters in the 2022 national and local elections.
Under the bill filed by Velasco—along with Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano—the last day of registration for next year’s polls “shall be 30 days after the effectivity” of the proposed measure.
Velasco said that one important step the Comelec can take to prevent voter disenfranchisement is to extend the voting registration period, which ends on September 30 this year.
The original version of HB 10261 sought to extend the voter registration deadline until October 31, 2021.
“Extending the voter registration would allow our young people, as well as those who have been deactivated, to register and vote in next year’s elections,” Velasco said.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that 73 million voters are qualified to participate in the May 2022 polls.
The Comelec has reported that there are around 61 million registered voters in the country, as of last August 23.
At the same time, Velasco prodded the Comelec to put in place measures that would make it easier for Filipinos to register and vote, such as fixing long lines at voter registration centers.
The Speaker said registering to vote should not be like an obstacle course for Filipinos, especially first-time voters, amid mounting complaints about the difficulty of the registration process.
He lamented how some registrants endured long queues at the start of dawn, yet at times have not been accommodated.
“Why do we have to make it so hard for people to register to vote? We urge the Comelec to make voting free, fair and easy,” Velasco said.
The House chief said it is only proper to extend the voter registration deadline to make up for the time lost due to the pandemic.
According to Velasco, the six-month suspension of voter registration during the height of the pandemic in 2020 prevented a lot of Filipinos from taking the crucial first step in participating in the May 2022 polls.
Velasco noted that registrations were suspended further in 2021 as the nation was placed under different community quarantine classifications.
"Let’s give to registrants the time lost when they weren’t able to register. At least give them an additional month so that they could participate in the coming national elections,” he said. #