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Velasco warns of massive voter disenfranchisement

Through viva voce voting, the legislative chamber approved on second reading Friday the amended version of the measure.

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House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Saturday called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to “exert all efforts” to allow all 73 million Filipinos who are qualified to vote to register for the May 2022 general elections.

The Marinduque solon asked the Comelec not to let the Covid-19 pandemic impede the democratic process of election, which he said has the potential to “cause massive voter disenfranchisement.”

“The right to vote in an election is one essential part of the democratic process, and Comelec is duty-bound to make sure that all eligible voters are able to register and exercise their right of suffrage,” Velasco said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that 73 million voters are qualified to participate in the May 2022 polls while the Comelec has so far registered 61 million voters as of 23 August.

Velasco also asked the Comelec to put in place measures that would make it easier for Filipinos to register and vote, such as fixing long lines at voter registration centers.

The House leader stressed that registering to vote should not be like an obstacle course for Filipinos, especially first-time voters, amid complaints about the difficulty of the registration process.

He lamented how some registrants endured long queues at the start of dawn.

“Why do we have to make it so hard for people to register to vote? We urge the Comelec to make voting free, fair, and easy,” he said.

The House chief said it is only proper to extend the voter registration deadline to make up for the time lost due to the pandemic.

He stressed that the six-month suspension of voter registration during the height of the pandemic in 2020 prevented a lot of Filipinos from taking the crucial first step in participating in the upcoming polls.

“Let’s give to registrants the time lost when they weren’t able to register. At least give them an additional month so that they could participate in the coming national elections,” he said.

On Friday’s session, the House of Representatives passed on second reading Velasco’s House Bill 10261, which seeks to extend the period of voter registration until 31 October 2021.

Through viva voce voting, the legislative chamber approved on second reading Friday the amended version of the measure.

Under the bill filed by Velasco — along with Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano — the last day of registration for next year’s polls “shall be 30 days after the effectivity” of the proposed law.

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