Kabataan Partylist (KPL) National Capital Region (NCR) joined by other youth formations trooped to the Commission on Elections office in Intramuros, Manila to demand ‘comprehensive, accessible, and efficient’ mechanisms to ease the registration process for millions of potential voters now that the poll body has granted the public call for voters’ registration extension.
KPL NCR organizer Frejxyza Tinaya noted three major concerns that the COMELEC still has to address:
- Inaccessibility of the COMELEC’s voters’ registration app
- Congestion of registration centers
- Shortage on personnel and daily slots
- Fewer number of voters’ registration centers than in 2019
The COMELEC announced on September 29 that it would reopen the voters’ registration from October 11 to 30, after the period of filing of certificates of candidacy from October 1 to 8. Prior to this, the registration was scheduled to end on September 30, with the last days of registration hounded with long queues starting as early as 3 am. Weeks within the original registration period were cut back due to the lockdowns.
During the extension period, the voters’ registration will only be on weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm, and on October 30, which is a Saturday.
The registration for overseas voters was also extended from October 1 to 14.
Inaccessible COMELEC voters’ registration app
Tinaya said that the one-month extension would only be substantial should these issues that the people face upon registration be addressed by COMELEC.
On June 15, the poll body introduced a Mobile Registration Form App. However, the group said the use and access of had very restrictive and limited means.
- Only Android users can access the app;
- However, it is not downloadable on Google Play store
- It cannot also be used yet by voter applicants in Metro Manila and overseas
The COMELEC identified pilot areas with poor internet connection which will be prioritized and accommodated to utilize the app by encouraging users to visit their local COMELEC offices to ask for a copy of the app. This will then be sent either via Bluetooth or via SHAREit.
While users need not have an internet connection, they were asked to fill out the form for a QR code which has to be presented to the local COMELEC office. Tinaya decried that even with the use of the app, needing the physical presence of the voter meant the registration process was only partly digitized but was even more complicated especially for the poor.
“Kung mananatiling ganito ang pamamalakad ng COMELEC pagdating sa pag-aaccomodate sa mga nagpaparehistro, ang isang buwan na extension ay magiging ‘di sapat upang makapagpa-rehistro ang 13.1M pang potential voters,” Tinaya said.
[If the COMELEC’s process for accommodating voters remains the same, the one-month extension will prove insufficient to register 13.1 million more potential voters.]
Last September 11, COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez said that the poll body has been processing over 25,000 registrants on a daily basis.
KPL NCR said that with that number, only 575,000 or 4.39% out of the 13.1 million remaining potential voters could be registered despite the approved extension of registration, or maybe even less if registration issues remain unsolved.
The COMELEC said over 63.36 million Filipinos may vote in the May 2022 elections as of September 11, with over five million new registrants.
Over-congested registration center, shortage on personnel and daily slots
Since June 2021, the poll body said they will increase the number of registration centers. COMELEC Deputy Executive Director for Operations Teopisto Elnas Jr. said that there were only 18,945 satellite registration offices or at least 35.75% against the 52,842 sites established last 2019 midterm elections because of pandemic restrictions.
Even voters’ registration in malls, promising a more convenient experience for applicants, also experienced long queues.
Two voters interviewed by Manila Today who lined up at 3 am in a mall in Manila expressed dismay at the congestion, long queues, and pre-dawn cut-offs. Only one of them was allowed to register as a voter that they said depended on the IDs and other requirements they presented.
Both shared they tried four times but were met with cut-offs at around 3 to 4 am, prompting them to line up before 3 am on the day Manila Today interviewed them.
“Hindi organized yung sistema, lalo na sa pila. Wala silang number system para sa mga pumipila at halos 300 na tao lang ang inaaccomodate sa kabila ng higit isanlibo pang mga nakapila,” one of them shared.
[The system is not organized, especially in the queue. They don’t have a number system for those who lined up and they accommodate only 300 despite more than a thousand who were on the queue.]
Another queue awaits the applicant selected among the 300 in the actual registration inside the mall.
“Pagkatapos no’n ay diretso ka na sa mall para maghintay ka uli sa aktwal na registration. May sampu lang na nag-aassist kaya mabagal rin usad,” they added.
[After that, you will go to the mall to wait for the actual registration. There were only 10 who assist in the registration that’s why the process is slow.]
It took almost a whole day to finish the registration.
Pandemic response failure
KPL first nominee Raoul Manuel said that these glaring registration issues mirrored the government’s failed pandemic response.
“Hindi pwede na ma-disenfranchise natin ang ating mga kababayan na hindi makaboto dahil lang sa logistical constraints na pwede naman sanang aksyunan ng pamahalaan,” Manuel added.
[Our countrymen should not be disenfranchised and not be able to vote because of logistical constraints that are possible to be addressed by the government.]
Manuel urged COMELEC to not limit its goal despite reaching the target number of voters for the May 2022 elections.
“’Wag lang masapatan na na-reach natin ang ating target na bilang ng mga botante sa susunod na taon, dapat as many as possible given na kung bahagi ng democratic exercise natin ang halalan ay kinakailangan na maximum participation ang goal natin,” he concluded.
[Don’t be satisfied with reaching the target of new voters, but as many as possible should be accommodated because elections are part of our democratic exercise and maximum participation should be the goal.]
On June 28, Jimenez announced in an online forum that the poll body has exceeded its 2019 target of four million new voters as there were 4.3 million new voters registered then.