What you need to know:
- Kabataan Partylist estimates that nearly three out of 10 registration days were lost to lockdowns.
- Comelec says it has already registered 61.06 million voters, surpassing its 59 million target. However, the Philippine Statistics Authority estimates the 2022 voting population at 73.3 million, meaning 12.3 million applicants are yet to sign up.
- Resolutions were filed in both houses of Congress urging the poll commission to extend the registration period until Oct. 31.
Thousands of voter applicants for the 2022 elections are unable to register as early cut-offs and disorganized systems trouble satellite poll sign-up hubs across Metro Manila.
Even when the Commission on Elections (Comelec) opened mall registration booths to draw more voters as the Sept. 30 deadline draws near, registrants were still met with obstacles in their application process.
This comes after the poll body refused to extend the voter registration period following multiple suspensions brought by hard lockdowns.
Applicants like UP student Kyla Hernandez grew frustrated over mishaps in satellite registration sites where slots ran out quickly.
Hernandez braved Typhoon Kiko and went to UP Town Center (UPTC) on Sept. 11. The UPTC satellite site opened applications from District 3 and District 4, where Hernandez lives.
While Hernandez arrived at 8 a.m., she was already greeted by a long queue outside the mall entrance.
“There were people passing by and telling us na wala na raw slots for District 3. Being from District 4, we stayed pa rin,” she told TNP. “Nung nakapasok na kami, doon pa lang nag-announce [na] ‘yung mga hindi nakapasok [sa loob] wala na [raw slots]. Yung linya noon sobrang haba pa.”
Hernandez waited three hours more in a line that stretched on to two floors. When she was finally steps away from the registration booth, she was told to go home as slots had already been filled.
Comelec only allotted 240 slots for District 3 and 280 slots for District 4, which filled up an hour before the mall opened at 9 a.m.
“Many in line with us expressed anger. Bakit napaka-limitado lang [ng] opportunities to register? For a lot of people, this was their only chance. So despite the rain and the pandemic, they went,” Hernandez lamented.
To appease registrants who were sent home, Hernandez said Comelec officials listed their contact details in order to be prioritized in ‘[setting] appointments directly’ at its offices.
Hernandez said they were able to set an appointment with Comelec last week. However, they ended up going home again as the registration system crashed.
Unlike Hernandez, Fairview resident Angel Manahan did not get assurance from the poll body when she was turned down at the satellite site at Fairview Terraces.
Despite lining up at 6:30 a.m., Manahan was told she could no longer be accommodated as slots had already been filled up before she arrived.
“Nagbabakasakali kami na pwede sa malls dahil takot pa rin kami na mag-travel [nang] malayo kasi pandemic. Pero bakit lalagyan pa nila ng cut-off ang dami pang ‘di naka-register?” she said.
Manahan said she considered registering as early as February 2020 but had to postpone as she had just given birth. When she was cleared to go out, Metro Manila had already been placed under ECQ.
“Ngayon lang rin akong naglakas loob lumabas since ngayon lang ako nakatanggap ng bakuna. Dapat na estimate nila [na maraming tao] since sarado mga malls at konti lang transportation [noong ECQ],” she added.
Fairview Terraces only accommodated 300 people from QC Districts 2, 5 and 6.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that cut-offs are necessary since voter registration machines (VRM) can only cater to limited people. VRMs record voter biometrics with a digital camera, a fingerprint scanner and a signature pad.
Youth groups add that this is worsened by the lack of personnel and satellite registration sites.
“‘Yung mga makina natin, it’s not a simple matter of entering names. You have to go to the interview [and] the biometrics. That takes about five minutes so merong natural limit dyan,” Jimenez said in a press conference. “Ultimately the solution is to come again kung hindi ka inabot.”
But for Manahan who clocks an eight-hour job at a corporate agency, this would not be easy.
“Gusto ko man mag bakasakali [ulit] pero ‘di na kaya dahil maaapektuhan ang trabaho ko. ‘Di naman [ako] pwedeng umabsent kung wala na akong natitirang leave,” she added.
Aside from early cut-offs, registrants were also confused with requirements they were not made aware of.
Irene, who asked to hide her identity, said she went to SM San Lazaro in Manila as early as 4:30 a.m., only to be told she had to “secure a stub first from their barangay” before registering.
Barangay officials informed Irene that the Comelec did not give them any ‘stubs’.
“Ang pagkaalam [ng barangay] ay pumunta na lang sa sinabing lugar para magparehistro. Kaya ang kinaiinisan namin kulang sila sa impormasyon. Ang alam lang po talaga namin ay walk-in,” she said.
Poll registration sites take in walk-in applicants like Irene, but others have booked appointments in advance through Comelec’s iRehistro website.
To streamline the registration process, Comelec launched the iRehistro platform so applicants can fill out and submit their voter registration forms online. While it aimed to make the process easier, application slots remain limited.
Applicants may schedule an appointment with iRehistro to have their biometrics recorded at their local Comelec office. Registrants with appointments are prioritized over walk-in applicants.
As lockdowns clogged iRehistro, Jimenez said they used malls to “cut down on the backlog.”
Hernandez and Manahan both tried to apply through iRehistro. They were both unable to secure an appointment as slots for biometric captures were fully booked up to Sept. 25—the last available day for appointments.
Kabataan Partylist spokesperson Raoul Manuel told TNP that the challenges people encounter in enlistment centers show how the pandemic has cramped the registration process.
“Dapat maging sensitive ang Comelec sa ganitong cases para hindi ma-disenfranchise ‘yung voters,” Manuel said. “Kung karapatan ‘yung pagboto dapat ang inuuna natin ay paano babawasan ‘yung barriers para makuha [ito].”
Kabataan Partylist reports that suspensions nationwide total to 164 days or 28.3% of the entire registration period. Figures are higher in Metro Manila where repeated lockdowns lost 224 days or 38.6% of the registration period.
The Philippine Statistics Authority estimates that there are 73.3 million eligible voters, but at least 12.2 million of them haven’t registered yet.
Despite this, Comelec boasts 61.06 million registered voters as of Aug. 24, surpassing its 59 million target for the 2022 elections. The 4.3 million first-time voters also surpassed the commission’s four million benchmark.
“Bagamat na-meet na ng Comelec yung target niya na bilang ng voters, gusto pa rin natin [ng] maximum participation. Kung meron pa namang gusto pang magpa-rehistro, bakit natin haharangan?” Manuel added.
Extend voter registration
While the Sept. 30 deadline approaches, Comelec rejected calls to extend the registration period, citing the poll body’s concerns about their personnel’s health and safety, as well as off-setting the timeline for the 2022 elections.
“Hindi naman natin ina-underestimate yung effects ng pandemic on their end, pero may epekto din naman ‘ang pandemya sa mamamayan,” Manuel said.
On Sept. 14, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the poll commission to extend the registration period until Oct. 31. A similar resolution awaits second reading in the House of Representatives.
Comelec commissioner Marlon Casquejo said he will try to raise Congress’ demands to the en banc this week.
Manahan, an aspiring first-time voter, hopes the Comelec would reconsider its decision so she could squeeze her registration into her tight working schedule.
“Halos taon-taon ang daming dumadating sa legal age pero sandali lang ang [binibigay] nilang pagkakataon [para] magpa-register,” Manahan said. “Mahalaga ito sa lahat ng mga Pilipino na magising na sa pagiging bulag-bulagan sa mga kasinungalingan ng mga opisyal na niluklok natin nakaraan.”
Meanwhile, Hernandez believes that although the elections are not the ultimate solution to the country’s problems, it is an important component that empowers our democracy.
“If it is an avenue that can give us even a glimmer of hope, then the call to extend registration and make it more accessible is definitely worth fighting for,” she added.