By LUISA SANDOVAL
MANILA— Progressive groups are dismayed over the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) not to extend voter registration, calling it a denial of the right of Filipinos to vote.
The Comelec decision is intended at preventing delays in other preparatory activities leading to the elections, including the finalization of the voters list. Instead of extending the registration beyond September 30, Comelec has instead extended registration hours and will be open on Saturdays and holidays.
But would this be enough?
In a statement, Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers) said that restrictions on mobility have hampered Filipinos from registering to vote in the past months, adding that “not extending the deadline for voter registration is denying many Filipinos their right to vote.”
“Many Filipinos still want to register or have their voting precinct transferred but cannot do it due to lockdowns or if the precinct is far from where they live,” Castro said.
College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) Deputy Secretary General Regina Tolentino believes that the extension of registration hours may not be enough given the insufficient registration equipment, materials, and the limited number of registrants the Comelec could accommodate in a day.
“Not extending the voter registration period would put thousands, if not millions, of future voters unable to exercise the right to suffrage just because they prioritized health and safety over registering within an inconvenient, constrained time,” said Tolentino in a statement.
Comelec offices in the National Capital Region have been closed since the imposition of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Under modified ECQ, Comelec offices in Metro Manila remain closed.
Meanwhile, Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago wrote a letter to the Comelec requesting for the extension of the deadline of voter registration.
“While we recognize COMELEC’s need to have ample time to prepare the final list of voters, which is a prerequisite for the preparation and completion of the Project of Precincts (POP), the youth and the people believe that at least a month extension would not delay that much COMELEC’s preparation of the POP,” the appeal read.
The letter also stated that there have been previous instances where the Comelec has extended the deadline for voter registration beyond October 31.