Senate suspends hearing of Comelec budget

Voter registration. /INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate finance subcommittee has deferred the deliberations and approval of the budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for 2022 over the poll body’s refusal to extend for one month the registration of voters.

Comelec has set the deadline for the registration of voters for the 2022 polls on Sept. 30 this year.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, the chairperson of the subcommittee, suspended the hearing of the Comelec’s budget, which was urged to convene an En Banc discussion on the call of lawmakers to extend the registration of voters through October 31, 2021.

“The chair will suspend this hearing, the deliberation of the consideration of the budget being deferred and the chair enjoins the Comelec, through its chair Sheriff Abas, na kung maaari po makapag-En Banc discussion for a third and last time,” she said.

It was Senator Francis Pangilinan who first suggested that the Comelec En Banc again discuss the extension of voter registration.

“I would like to support the Comelec, but in this matter of voter registration, the rights of voters come first. Voting is the bedrock democracy…and this is anti-democratic,” Pangilinan said, referring to the Comelec resistance to an extension, which he said will lead to massive disenfranchisement.

“I  hope and I pray that the change of heart might happen when they have to discuss En Banc,” he added.

There are pending bills in the Senate and House of Representatives mandating the one-month extension of the voter registration.

Earlier in the hearing, Abas said the poll body will have no choice but to follow the bill should it be signed into law, but reiterated their proposed compromise of opening the voter registration for one more week after the filing of the certificates of candidacy scheduled on October 1 to 8.

“Wala po kaming luxury of time,” (We don’t have the luxury of time) he told senators, citing the Comelec’s tight timeline ahead of the 2022 elections.

/MUF

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