The government is agonizing over how to proceed with voter registration in the face of the lingering health crisis.
Malacanang is leaving it up to the Commission on Elections to make arrangements to facilitate the registration process.
The Comelec is to decide on the proposal of Metro Manila mayors to postpone voter registration up to next year to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said it is up to the Comelec to decide on the deferment of voter registration and not the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
However, he said the IATF-EID could not dictate on the Comelec since it is a constitutional body.
“We can only recommend to the Comelec but the final decision will be the Comelec because it is a constitutional body tasked with the conduct of voter’s registration,” he said.
Earlier, Metro Manila mayors pushed for the postponement of voter registration until January 2021 or until modified general community quarantine is declared across the country.
However, the Comelec opposed the recommendation since voter registration was already suspended for six months.
But a ranking congressional leader may have the magic formula to optimize voter enlistment while assuring public safety in the face of the still raging 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic.
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez earlier vowed to prioritize the passage of a bill mandating the government to adopt an online system for voter’s registration.
Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, said he would push for the approval of House Bill 7063 that he filed together with the late Senior Citizens party-list Rep. Francisco “Jun” Datol Jr., who was chairman of the House special committee on senior citizens. Datol Jr. succumbed to coronavirus disease-19.
“We are going to prioritize the passage of this very timely legislation that our very dear friend, the late Congressman Jun pushed until his death. This will also help government’s campaign to quell the pandemic,” he said.
He stressed the need for the Commission on Elections to make the electoral system “resilient” following the continued threat of Covid-19.
“With no immediate end for the Covid-19 pandemic in sight, it is believed that rather than wait for the pandemic to end, the Comelec should be pro-active and adopt innovative measures, such as online voter’s registration, to facilitate voter’s registration during the Covid-19 pandemic and for it continually fulfill its mandate of protecting the Filipino’s right of suffrage,” the Leyte lawmaker said.
HB 7063 seeks to amend Republic Act 8184, otherwise known as the “Voter’s Registration Act of 1996,” to ensure an “enabling environment” for people to register as voters amid the pandemic crisis.
“By adopting a system for online voter’s registration, we do not just make our electoral system more resilient to unexpected calamities such as the Covid-19 pandemic but also create a system that provides the Filipino electorate and our government an efficient, convenient, and cost-effective mechanism for voter’s registration in the long term,” Romualdez said.
HB 7063 seeks to provide that the personal or electronic filing of application of registration of voters “shall be conducted daily in the office of the election officer during regular office hours or through the official website for such purpose as designated by the commission”.
The bill seeks to provide that to register as a voter, he or she shall personally or electronically accomplish an application form for registration as prescribed by the commission in three copies before the election officer on any date during office hours or through the official website for such purpose as designated by the commission after having acquired the qualifications of a voter.
“The application for registration shall contain three specimen signatures of the applicant, clear and legible rolled prints of his left and right thumbprints, with four identification size copies of his latest photograph, submitted personally or through electronic means, attached thereto, to be taken at the expense of the commission,” the measure said.
In case of online submission of a completed voter’s registration by an individual, the bill provides that the commission “shall send the individual a notice confirming the commission’s receipt of the application and providing instructions on how the individual may check the status of the application”.
“Furthermore, the commission shall employ security measures which are necessary to ensure the accuracy and integrity of electronically submitted voter registration applications,” it added.