Comelec proposes extending voter registration by a week

Comelec proposes extending voter registration by a week
A woman has her biometrics taken during her registration at Comelec office in Quezon City on Feb. 4, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — Under pressure from Congress, the Commission on Elections is now considering extending voter registration for a week in October. 

"[O]ur proposal...is to give [a] one-week extension after the filing of the [certificates of candidacy]," Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo told the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election System at a hearing Thursday. 

COC filing is scheduled to take place from October 1 to 8. 

The proposal is a departure from the poll body's previous rejection of widespread calls to extend registration due to the many days lost to lockdowns. 

It is also a response to the filing of bills in both chambers of Congress seeking to move the looming September 30, 2021 deadline for registration to October 31. The Senate version of the bill was approved on second reading on Wednesday. 

"What we have... already ruled twice [is] not to extend the registration," Casquejo said. "However, we are also aware [of] the pending bill that the [Senate] plenary approved, mandating the Comelec to extend the registration." 

"If that bill will be passed as a law, then we will comply." 

Casquejo appealed to lawmakers not to force Comelec's hand "because majority of our preparations will be affected," again citing the extra preparations necessitated by the pandemic. 

But members of the oversight committee were unsatisfied with the proposal. "The one week offered by Comelec is far from the one month [sought] by the legislature," Sen. Imee Marcos said in Filipino, adding that the offer "is not a compromise."  Marcos is also chair of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation.

Rep. Elpidio Bargaza Jr. (Cavite, 4th district) urged the body to consider a two-week extension instead. — Bella Perez-Rubio 

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