Groups in North America echo demand for PH voter registration extension
SAN FRANCISCO – Filipino human rights groups in North America are joining their counterparts in the Philippines in clamoring for the extension of voter’s registration for the 2022 national elections set to end on September 30.
Ago Pedalizo and Art Garcia of the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance (FAHRA) expressed “appreciation for all the efforts of the different Philippine consulates in the US/Canada and elsewhere in responding to our request for community outreach to the overseas Filipino voters, which include among others, Public Service Announcements (PSAs), and providing more physical access at the consulates.”
However, their statement continued, these efforts were not enough and urged the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) to do the following:
- Extend registration to October 31st;
- Mass email to the deactivated list of voters amounting to 578,000 worldwide; and
- Publish the names of deactivated voters in major newspapers that cater to Filipinos.
Failure to exhaust all possible means to reach out to voters would amount to sin of omission on the part of the COMELEC and would also constitute voters’ suppression,” the statement contends.
“With the ongoing surge of COVID variant and economic displacement of Filipinos for reasons not of their own making, we feel that the Philippine government should provide all necessary means to allow people to register to vote.”
The statement was reportedly agreed upon by Malaya Movement, Global Pinoys Diaspora Canada, US Pinoys for Good Governance and was also discussed in a recent Pambayang Talakayan billed as “Paano Ipagtatanggol ang Karapatan at Tungkulin ng mga OFW at Migranteng Pinoy na Magrehistro at Bumoto?”
Earlier reports of the Department of Foreign Affairs – Overseas Voting Secretariat (DFA-OVS) that some 578,185 overseas voters from different countries were deactivated by COMELEC after failing to vote in the 2016 and 2019 National and Local Elections and these deactivated voters are urged to re-register in order for them to be able participate in the 2022 Presidential Elections.
US Pinoys for Good Government’s Eric Lachica added that around 86,000 are in the deactivated list in the U.S. with estimates of 26,000 voters in Los Angeles, 23,000 in San Francisco, and 12,000 in New York, among others.
“We have to push hard for the extension if not logistically possible to reactivate those in the deactivated list. We have to join the 50 or so organizations in the Philippines in their call to extend voter registration,” Lachica urged.
Malaya Movement USA’s Yves Nibungco estimates that two million overseas workers have registered for the 2022 elections.
“Our consulates in the U.S. are underfunded, under-resourced as the Duterte government does not really have well-planned ways to conduct free, orderly and honest elections for the voices of OFWs be heard and be given the chance to choose the next leaders of the nation through the ballots,” Nibungco suspects.
Atty. Ricky Tomotorgo aka Enzo Recto of Bunyog in the Philippines cited a report that around 5 ½ months of time that could have been spent for registration were gone due to the pandemic and that an estimate of 13 million voters would not be able to register to vote. .
“Even the Senate itself, through a resolution filed by Senator Francis Pangilinan, asked for the extension of registration to at least October 31,” Tomotorgo shared. “For every three years since having elections in the Philippines, a study reveals that from 2001-2016, voters registrations have been extended to January 9, 2010 for the Presidential election of that year” .
In another development, latest report furnished by the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco (PCG-SF) has a running total of 6,524 new overseas voting registrants since December 2019 and that the Consulate are awaiting registrations until 5 p.m. on Sept. 30 at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco.
They have been broken down to 142 Overseas Voting New Registrants for December 2019, 1,691 for 2020, and 4,691 Overseas Voting New Registrants for 2021.
Aside from facilitating the registration of new overseas registrants, the Consulate has also processed the change of address, contact details, transfer of registration, etc., of registered voters.
The Consulate observed that COVID-19 pandemic may have affected the turnout of the registrations just like any other public activity as what happened in San Francisco that for four months had a shelter-in-place health order last year.
Just the same, Consul Neil Frank Ferrer encourages the public to register for the national elections in 2022.
“Aside from our daily registration of overseas voters at the Consulate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. we have been doing mobile registration of overseas voters in our consular outreach missions, in Seattle, Washington, Salt Lake City, Utah, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, Alaska, Portland, Oregon and in our upcoming consular outreach in Bozeman, Montana on 22-25 September 2021,” Ferrer announced.
This is apart from chance of the public to register on weekdays until Sept. 30 from 9 AM to 5 PM Pacific Time, at the Philippine Consulate on Sutter Street in San Francisco with a whole Saturday day registration on September 25 from 9 AM to 5 PM. Overseas registrants are encouraged to already register even before the deadline to allow social distancing.