AS both Houses of Congress move to legislate the extension of voter registration, the Senate gave the Commission on Elections time to deliberate its next steps.
At Friday’s budget hearing, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan suggested that the subcommittee defer consideration of the Comelec budget to give the poll body a chance to discuss the recent actions of Congress.
“Maybe we can consider deferring the presentation and action on the Comelec budget — give them the chance to do an en banc debate or discussion and then come back to us. I’m presenting that as a possible win-win situation,” Pangilinan said.
“I hope and pray that the change of heart might happen … because of the most recent developments in the last two weeks,” he added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, who chairs the Subcommittee H of the Senate Committee on Finance, thus suspended Friday’s hearing of the 2022 Comelec budget.
Citing its tight schedule, Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas apologized for the poll body’s “polite rejection” of Congress’ call to extend voter registration.
Abas told the finance subcommittee that the poll body has some “immovable dates” like the schedule to load data in all vote-counting machines (VCMs) and to finalize the voters’ list.
Pangilinan said that he supports the Comelec budget but stressed that voters’ rights come first.
“In this matter of voter registration, the rights of voters come first. Voting is the bedrock of any democracy, and it is anti-democratic, to say the least, to disenfranchise over 12 million who are eligible but are not registered,” the senator said.
Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said that as of September 21, 2021, there are 61,099,538 registered voters, with 2.7 million applications still being processed. This would make the total number of registered voters 63,824,270 once pending applications have been processed.
The Senate is expected to pass on third and final reading Senate Bill 2408, which seeks to extend voters registration from September 30 to October 31, 2021, once the session resumes on Monday, September 27.
On the other hand, the House of Representatives has approved its version of the measure at the committee level.
As of today, there are only six days left until the deadline for voter registration.