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THE Senate has nudged the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to extend the deadline of voter registration due to the inconvenience that COVID-19 brought to many Filipinos’ attempt to register for the upcoming 2022 elections.

Upon the sponsorship of Senator Francis Pangilinan as the primary author together with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and senators Leila de Lima, Nancy Binay, Risa Hontiveros, and Joel Villanueva as signatories of the recommendation, the Senate has unanimously approved and adopted Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 851 on Tuesday, September 14, aimed at moving the voter registration deadline from September 31 to October 31 this year.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senator Imee Marcos further voiced out their support on the Senate’s call.

According to the senators, the move is prompted by their interest to “prevent voter disenfranchisement brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Senate further emphasized in the resolution that the COMELEC has the authority to determine periods for pre-election activities including voter registration to much extent, provided that no registration will be made during the period starting 120 days prior to the regular election proper.

“While it is also important for the COMELEC is to have enough time to prepare the final list of voters, which is a prerequisite for the preparation and completion of the Project of Precincts (POP), a one-month extension will not unduly hamper or delay COMELEC’s preparation of the POP. In fact, in previous national and local elections, COMELEC set deadlines that are on or beyond October 31 of the year before elections,” the Senate wrote.

Taking into consideration both the public health emergency and the preparation to exercise Filipinos’ rights to suffrage, the senators pointed out that the five-and-a-half-month suspension of voter registration across the country is equivalent to approximately 28.3 percent of the entire registration period.

The Senate—through the PSR—moreover highlighted the 38.6 percent loss in total voter registration period for some areas including Metro Manila after its month-long suspension of voter registration amid the enhanced and modified enhanced community lockdowns.

While different groups and lawmakers have been consistent in asking the poll body to consider the current situation, COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez has earlier said that they had to reject the proposal, stressing that it would damage the expected timeline made for the approaching national and local elections and that the “continuing apprehensions about the health and safety of the public and COMELEC personnel” is also their utmost concern.

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