A measure seeking to extend the voter registration deadline for the May 2022 national and local elections from Sept. 30 to Oct. 31 this year hurdled committee level at the House of Representatives.
During a virtual hearing on Friday, the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms approved House Bill 10261, which is authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano.
Velasco said the period for registration must be extended to avoid “massive voter disenfranchisement” given the “extraordinary circumstances’ brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the extension would also give “leeway” to Filipinos whose registration was delayed because of prevailing circumstances.
“The public health crisis has been prolonged and many prospective voters have been forced to delay their registration this year and in 2020,” he said. “At a time of uncertainty, each and every office of the government is tasked to be flexible and alert.”
Negros Occidental Rep. Juliet Marie De Leon Ferrer, panel chair, said many Filipinos have yet to register to be able to vote on the May 9, 2022 polls, both here and abroad, highlighting that the deadline is just six days away.
“We have heard the stakeholders in our committee hearings clamoring for an extension of voter registration,” she said.
Citing the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report, Ferrer said there are 73 million Filipinos eligible to vote, while the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has registered 62 million at present.
“Still, (the) Comelec does not want to accommodate the clamor of the Filipino people,” she said.
Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, who was present during the meeting, cited the exposure of Comelec workers to Covid-19 and their confusion whether the people lining up are for registration or for the issuance of certificate of registration.
She said the Comelec could give a one-week extension after the filing of the certificate of candidacy, which is from October 1 to 8.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said Comelec workers are exposed to contracting the disease only during the registration period and on the day of the election.
Barzaga said their situation is unlike that of local government workers who are in danger of getting infected by Covid-19 everyday.He recommended that the Comelec should establish a system like a line each for registration and for the issuance of a certificate of registration to avoid confusion.