Velasco ‘glad’ Comelec heeded clamor to extend voter registration

BOAC, Marinduque — Marinduque Representative and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has welcomed the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend the voter registration period for the May 2022 elections until October 31 this year.

Velasco said he was glad the Comelec has finally heeded the clamor of Congress and the public to give voters, who face the prospect of being disenfranchised because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more time to register and vote in the coming polls.

“We thank the Comelec for seeing the wisdom of extending the voter registration to allow more Filipinos to exercise their right of suffrage, which is one of the most important rights and responsibilities we have as citizens of the Philippines,” Velasco said.

The Comelec decision came two days after the House of Representatives and the Senate approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to compel the poll body to extend by one month the voter registration period, which was supposed to end on September 30.

Principally authored by Speaker Velasco, House Bill 10261 sets the deadline for voter registration to “30 days after the effectivity” of the proposed measure.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, the main sponsor of the counterpart measure in the Upper Chamber, reportedly said the Senate will adopt the House version of the bill.

This will allow the legislature to do away with the bicameral conference committee meeting as the final version will be sent straight to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for his signature.

Velasco maintained that extending the voter registration would prevent “massive voter disenfranchisement” given the “extraordinary circumstances” brought about by the pandemic.

“Again, we hope the Comelec will use the extension to ramp up voter registration and ensure that more people can vote next year because we cannot afford to disenfranchise Filipino voters,” Velasco said.

The Speaker noted that the six-month suspension of voter registration during the height of the health crisis in 2020 prevented a lot of Filipinos from taking the crucial first step in participating in the May 2022 polls.

He noted that registrations were suspended further in 2021 as the nation was placed under different community quarantine classifications.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that 73 million voters are qualified to participate in the May 2022 polls.

The Comelec has reported that as of last August 23, there are around 61 million registered voters in the country. This could mean that there are still around 12 million Filipinos who have yet to register. —

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