Comelec to study civil society groups’ request to extend the voter’s registration

By Ferdinand G. Patinio

MANILA, Oct. 1 (PNA) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will study the request of civil society groups headed by the Samahan para sa Tunay na Eleksyon sa Pilipinas (STEP) to extend the nationwide voter’s registration for another week after Oct. 31, 2015.

“I will take it up with my colleagues in the commission en banc. We will look into it, let’s see if we can accommodate it,” said Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista in a media roundtable held at the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) office in Intramuros, Manila on Thursday.

But, he noted that extending the registration period could affect their preparation timeline for the May 2016 polls.

“It might affect our timeline in preparing for the forthcoming elections, particularly with respect to the Project of Precincts and the holding of the Election Registration Board (ERB) hearings,” Bautista explained.

He added, “As far as we are concerned, if we have time and the schedule permits it, why not… (but) at this point, we will stick to the deadline.”

The Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), one of the member organizations of STEP, is requesting for the Comelec to extend the registration period until Nov. 7.

Lente Executive Director Atty. Rona Ann Caritos said they are asking for an extension to be able to offset the days when voter’s registration will be suspended, which is from Oct. 12 to 16, in order to give way to the filing of the Certificates of Candidacy (COCs) by candidates.

“We are asking the Comelec for another week of extension for the voter’s registration just because may isang linggo na mawawala because of the filing of the COCs. So logic lang namin na kapag may nawalang isang linggo, madagdagan din sana ng isang linggo,” she added.

The Lente official noted that extending the deadline will also minimize the number of people that could be disenfranchised in next year’s polls.

“It is even worth considering extending the deadline of voter’s registration and validation for another week if only to lessen further the number of disenfranchised voters,” Caritos said.

On the other hand, Bautista urged the civil society groups to help them in informing the public on the importance of having their biometrics taken.

“We are calling on registered voters not to wait until the last-minute before they will go out and have their biometrics taken,” he added.

For her part, Caritos said they will ask their coalition members to step up their campaign urging the public to register and ensure that they have complete biometrics data.

Comelec data showed that as of Aug. 30, there are still 3,130,377 voters that are without biometrics.

Republic Act No. 10367 or the Mandatory Biometrics Registration Act of 2013 states that voters who fail to have their biometrics taken prior to the May 2016 elections shall be deactivated from the voters’ list and shall not be allowed to vote.

Biometrics data refer to the automated identification of an individual, particularly his/her photograph, fingerprints, and signature.

The deadline for the voter’s registration is on Oct. 31. (PNA)