Voter registration used for other things – officials

By Jhunnex Napallacan, Doris C. Bongcac
Cebu Daily News
Last updated 02:48pm (Mla time) 07/19/2007

CEBU, Philippines—While recognizing the need to entertain everyone who wanted to register as a voter, an election official said many of those who line up are not actually there because they’re eager to vote.


Ray Rene Buac, regional director of the Commission on Electios in Central Visayas (Comelec-7) said many people who register as voters do so to obtain a record with the Comelec, which would make it easier for them to get business permits and especially passports.


“It could really be for reasons other than voting,” Buac said.


Buac said this is evident on any given election day, when the voter turnout is never more than 75 to 80 percent of total registrants.


He said many even visit his office beyond the deadline for registration just to register and start a Comelec record.


“Some come here admitting that they need to register because they wanted to go abroad. They’re really not interested in voting.


Marchel Sarno, election officer of Cebu City’s north district, said he has been witness to such incidents.


Sarno said he has heard, on many occasions, registrants saying they’re registering only because it was a requirement for other things.


Regardless of an applicant’s purpose for registering, Sarno said they were still trying to accommodate everyone who lines up to register.


On the fourth day of registration yesterday for the barangay and Sanguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on Oct. 29, Sarno said things went smoother than in previous days, but there were still many applicants who could not be accommodated. They were given priority numbers and would be among the first to be given attention today.


The Cebu City Council, however, was not pleased with how Comelec has been handling the registration of new voters, especially how it affected young voters. The council has asked the election body to extend its registration period.


Cebu City SK Federation president Glena Bontuyan said the new registrants, most of whom are students, are greatly inconvenienced by the lack of order in the registration process.


Bontuyan yesterday submitted the proposal to extend the registration period, which the city council approved.


She said copies of the resolution would be sent to Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos and the Malacañang Palace.


The SK Federation and the National Youth Commission are also taking steps to convince national Comelec officials to extend the registration period, said Bontuyan.


Bontuyan, who was at the Cebu City Comelec offices last Sunday to monitor the progress of the registration, said she saw how the young registrants suffered.


She said most of these young registrants come from far-flung barangays, but were not accommodated by the Comelec, asked instead to return the next day.


Asking the registrants to return, Bontuyan said, would mean again spending for fare and food, aside from having to again endure lining up.


Bontuyan also said that it was even more impractical for students, who would have difficulty returning to the Comelec office on a school day.


“The tendency is that most of the youth who want to register will flock to the Comelec offices on weekends,” said Bontuyan.


Vice Mayor Michael Rama said he had earlier warned the city’s election supervisors to anticipate at least 12,500 new registrants during the registration period.


“Without any extension in the registration, you can’t imagine how they can absorb all those who wanted to be registered… The need for an extension is very, very important,” he said.


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