The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will look into the possibility of extending the period of voter registration set for September 30 this year to accommodate more electors for the 2022 national elections.
This, after Senator Francis Pangilinan asked the commission to do so considering that there were still about 15 million expected eligible voters for the 2022 polls who have not yet registered, according to a combined data from the Comelec and the Philippine Statistics Authority.
During the hearing of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, Pangilinan urged the Comelec to extend the voter registration period to 30 days up to 45 days so that more eligible voters would be able to register.
"It's just a matter of a 30 days extension or 45 days extension, I think the Comelec should consider this. Because precisely you have 15 million estimated who are not registered," he said.
Comelec commissioner Marlon Casquejo said they would look into Pangilinan's proposal, although he expressed concern this would affect the timeline they had set for the 2022 elections.
The period for the filing of candidacy, in fact, would start on October 15.
Pangilinan said there might be a need to review the Comelec’s rules on deactivation of voter registration records after a poll official revealed 7 million of them were deactivated due to failure to participate in the last two elections.
During the hearing of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms chaired by Sen. Imee Marcos, Pangilinan also raised the possibility of raising the limit to three consecutive elections before records would have to be deactivated.
According to the Pangilinan, the seven million whose records were removed by the Comelec could have augmented the poll body’s target of voters for 2022.
Comelec Deputy Executive Director for Operations Teopisto Elnas said the current number of registered voters stood at 54 million.
He also told senators they were expecting only three million of the seven million former voters would reactivate their Comelec records.
So far, he related that only 200,000 of them have applied to reactivate their data.
Elnas also said the Comelec targets a total of 4 million new voter registrations by the end of September. He said that of this number, 1.3 million have already registered while the records of 1.6 million voters from the Sangguniang Kabataan elections would be extracted and added to the Comelec database, subject to approval of the city and municipal Election Registration Boards.
Pangilinan also quizzed Comelec officials about their plans and interventions to ensure that those who are willing and able to register to vote will be able to do so until the September 30, 2021 deadline.
Marcos said aside from Congress’ mandate to provide for a system for securing the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot, it is also bound to ensure wide participation during electoral exercises, plebiscite or referendum by senior citizens, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and indigenous
At the same time, Sen. Francis Tolentino renewed his appeal to the Comelec to find ways how seafarers could register and vote, considering they were at sea most of the time.
“It’s not just the question of how to register. But ultimately, the question is how and where to vote in so far as the seafarers are concerned. They are at sea. Based on their Seaman’s Book, they have a six-month contract. Even if they reach, let’s say the Port of Rotterdam, they have to travel to The Hague to go to the Embassy and vote... so it’s the manner of voting, not just the registration,” Tolentino said.
For his part, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III asked Comelec to come up with means that could simplify the process of transfer of voter’s registration.
Pimentel cited the case of overseas Filipino workers who have returned to the country and want to change their voter’s registration from overseas to regular or domestic voter.
“I hope the Comelec could look into the matter and come up with a very convenient system for our OFWs and other voters who also need to change their voter’s registration,” Pimentel added.