For someone long ago stricken off by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from its list of voters, I could only wonder at the tenacity shown by my youngest, Phoebe, in registering for the right to vote for the first time in next year’s elections.
For three times, coming in at 8 a.m., then at 6 a.m. then at 5 a.m., she tried her luck getting a slot in the mall-based registration of Comelec in Las Piñas — to no avail.
Three times she came in “late” despite coming hours too early before the actual registration was scheduled to start. Success, I’d call it that only because I did not want her going out when it’s still dark, came on her fourth try.
For good measure, she presented herself at 4 a.m. at the mall premises but barely in time, too, to get a number that would allow her to return much later in the afternoon for the actual registration.
I have no doubt that she would have tried every single day until the end of the registration period on the 30th of this month to get her name into that voters’ list because she did not want to relinquish that “right” I discarded decades back.
Call it losing one’s belief in the electoral system or at least in the quality of the candidates for public office that have presented themselves through the years, but I have no more plan on getting into that list.
Cynical, yes, I may be, but not entirely without reason as politicians in my years of voting have all proved to be sorely lacking compared to their promises and to what their offices demand of them.
But it’s a “right” that I would insist others in my family claim as theirs, even if they have to endure Comelec’s seeming lack of grasp of how so few their registration centers are and how pitifully few days are left for millions more to register.
Here, I cannot understand Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo saying they are amenable to extending but only for a week the registration period, and only after the politicos have already filed their certificates of candidacy from 1 to 8 October.
This, as Casquejo said, if Congress will force Comelec’s hand to extend for a month the registration until the end of October, that they will “abide.” That goes without saying, Mister Commissioner.
The point is why would Comelec wait for Congress to pass a measure extending the registration period for a month when, judging by his statement, the poll body can do it on its own.
Why the need for Comelec to be prodded when, if only it sees what’s happening at the registration centers, it should be the first to add more weeks into the process that had been delayed for months and is now hobbled by the Covid-19 pandemic?
According to Philippine Statistics Authority data cited by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, there are 73 million Filipinos who are qualified to vote next year, but the Comelec, as of its 23 August tally, said there were 61 million registered voters in its updated list.
That’s a difference of 12 million qualified voters, many of whom would surely be disenfranchised even if the registration deadline is extended to the end of October. As can be seen at the packed registration centers, the desire to register, especially by the young and idealistic first-time voters, is there.
Velasco, thus, was correct in asking the Comelec to do everything possible, granting the logistical issues it will face with the extension, to list as many voters as possible.
Even half of those 12 million qualified voters disenfranchised is not acceptable because they are more than enough to install the next president and vice president, down to the various other posts that will be contested in May.
Delist those who have lost faith in the electoral process, but don’t bar from that list those who still have faith — big or small — in an imperfect but still workable election system.