The Senate and House of Representatives have adopted Monday the concurrent resolution which urges the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to extend the deadline for voter registration to prevent voter disenfranchisement ensued by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a plenary session, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, the sponsor of Concurrent Resolution No. 17, has emphasized the need to extend the voter registration deadline from September 30 to October 31, 2021.
Pangilinan pointed out that many Filipinos are willing to wait in the line just to register and exercise their right to suffrage only to be hindered by the potential risk brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and its highly contagious variants.
“The least that the COMELEC can do is [to] not disenfranchise these voters and extend for one month [the voter registration]. I believe this is a reasonable appeal and a reasonable request,” he added.
According to Pangilinan, the House of Representatives upon Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s agreement has decided to support the motion—making the adoption of the resolution a mutual appeal of the entire Congress.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who co-sponsored the resolution, has further stressed that almost half of the population of expected registrants would most likely choose not to vote to ensure their safety, should COVID-19 cases soar high in the upcoming 2022 national and local elections.
“Last July, I presented to the body and to the Filipino people the result of Pulse Asia survey where I learned or we learned that an alarming 46% of the respondents said that they were not going to go out and vote if COVID-19 cases are still high by the time the election comes,” Zubiri said.
He also expressed that it is in this disturbing situation that the nation can clearly see the impact of COVID-19 towards the right of Filipinos to vote.
Zubiri said that those who have not been inoculated against COVID-19 and are not in the vaccination priority list might not put themselves at risk while standing in a crowded line for the sake of the voter registration.
This situation—at least to Zubiri—is almost like a deterrent to allow Filipino voters to exercise their right to suffrage.
“We shouldn’t be giving them a hard time. It’s their right to vote so let’s give them enough time to safely register. We need more time so our registrants can be spaced out and accommodated safely and properly. Even a month-long extension would make a big difference,” Zubiri stated.
He moreover expressed that Filipinos show “enthusiasm” by enduring long lines just to register and/or re-activate their voter record.
According to Zubiri, considering Filipinos’ interest to vote in the next year’s so-called pandemic elections is a good sign for this can prove that Filipinos, especially the youth, are well aware of the importance of the upcoming national and local polls in the pursuit of better governance.
“Alam po nila na nakasalalay ang kinabukasan ng ating bansa sa mga lider na maihahalal sa darating na eleksyon. Batid po nila na dapat maihalal ang lider na aagapay sa ating lahat upang sama-sama tayong babangon muli [mula] sa kahirapang dulot [ng] COVID-19. Thus, we have to make everything necessary and give our best efforts to allow them to exercise their right to suffrage,” Zubiri remarked.
On Monday, the House of Representatives has filed a substitute resolution to nudge the COMELEC and accept their call.
Last September 14, the Senate has also adopted Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 851—a separate resolution with almost the same content and recommendation, expecting for the election body to heed their plea but to no avail.
COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez, however, rejected the proposal with a reason that such move will damage the prepared timeline for the approaching elections and continue the apprehensions on both the health of the public and the Commission’s personnel.