‘Duty to Elect Good Leaders’: Voters flock to Comelec to register

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By Lyka Naranjo

With more and more Filipinos hoping to cast their ballots next year, lawmakers have voted to pass Senate Bill No. 2408 on its final reading on September 27, giving Filipinos more time to register for the upcoming 2022 elections.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez announced on Wednesday, September 29, that the Comelec will reopen voter registration from October 11 to 30 after the Senate’s unanimous approval of the extension.

The registration will temporarily close from October 1 to 8 to make way for the filing of the certificates of candidacies but will resume on October 11.

Earlier in August, Comelec announced that it will not extend the registration, initially scheduled to end on September 30.  With the voter registration deadline looming near, many have flocked to nearby Comelec offices, resulting in extremely long lines.

Scenes from the ground

Due to the limited manpower in many Comelec offices, Comelec issued a cut-off in several locations. This resulted in many people lining up, even before the break of dawn, just so they could get a chance to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming May 2022 elections.

Among those who went out to get registered was Jonix, a college student who lined up four different times in the Quezon City office.

In his first attempt, he arrived in the afternoon after receiving news that they would be accepting applicants until 5 p.m. However, when he got there, he was told that they just announced a cut-off of 300 people per day in that office. He tried going back again on Monday the following week, earlier this time at around 7:30 a.m., but he still didn’t make the cut.

“I went to Comelec as early as 5:30 a.m., only to be told four hours later that the long line of people still did not able to make the cut off,” Jonix said.

Despite this, he was eager to get registered. He woke up early on September 22 and reached Comelec office at 3 a.m. There was already a long line of people whom he learned had been there since 1a.m. Jonix was already the 198th in the line by the time he arrived.

“I was still in line by 10 AM, so I just decided to attend my online classes while in line.” After standing in line for several hours, he was finally able to finish his registration by 2:30 PM. “The process inside the Comelec office was somewhat inefficient,” he shared.

Another person who recently went out to get registered was Clem. A college student, she took a break from school because of the pandemic and decided to help out with the family’s food business. Clem shared that she was concerned about how loose social distancing protocols were observed in the mall where she and her father registered.

Clem added that even though the mall registration venue was relatively organized, the waiting time to get registered was so long that she and her father decided to just eat in their seats. “Naabutan ng gutom yung tatay ko,” she said.

Thirst for change

Commission on Elections Chairman Sheriff Abas told said that it has already processed more than 63 million registered voters as of September 11. The figure is way past the 59 million that Comelec projected for themselves in the coming May 2022 elections.

Of this number, around five million were new registrants, 871,000 reactivated their voter data, while 3.2 million applied for a transfer.

For Clem and Jonix, the number of new and reactivated registrants was a testament of the people’s thirst for change and rejection of the current state of governance.

When asked why he decided to line up for hours four different times despite being cut off in line repeatedly, Jonix’s answer was plain and simple. “We have lost too much time and too many lives because of the administration’s incompetence in responding to the pandemic. Truthfully, I haven’t felt alive since the pandemic started.”

He was still undecided on who was going to have his vote in May 2022, but he remained determined that he wanted competent leaders seated by next year.

Clem felt the same. Amid the flood of political propaganda and internet memes on social media pages, she is determined to elect more competent leaders in the face of the current regime, and will continue to do her research on candidates’ backgrounds and stand on pressing issues before casting her vote in May 2022.

Candidates in Elections 2022

Several politicians have declared their candidacy in the upcoming elections. Among the first are retired boxer Senator Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, former police chief Panfilo Lacson, Duterte’s right-hand Sen. Bong Go, and the son of the late dictator, Bongbong Marcos.

Most recently, on September 30, a day before the start of the filing of COCs, opposition coalition 1Samabayan nominated Vice President Leni Robredo as its presidential candidate. In a statement released later that day, she thanked the coalition for the trust and support but did not specify whether she was accepting the endorsement from 1Sambayan.

Meanwhile, labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman recently accepted the nomination as the presidential candidate of Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), composed of various progressive groups made up of the labouring masses.

Many progressive individuals have also declared their intent on running for office with hopes of implementing pro-people reforms in legislation. Among them is human rights lawyer and Bayan Muna chairman Atty. Neri Colmenares whose main advocacy is to help create a “new, integrated, comprehensive and free public health system” in contrast to the Duterte government’s failed response.

This advocacy echoes the public’s assertion for a strong healthcare system in the country. Most recently, Bloomberg News has named the Philippines as the “worst place to be amid the pandemic” with its inadequate testing regime and consequent disruptions in the economy and people’s livelihood.

With the voter registration extended, millions are now hoping to vote for a better future, especially the youth. When Clem was asked why she went out to get registered, she simply responded, “I want to contribute to electing good leaders. I am of age to carry out that responsibility,” she said.

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