MANILA, Philippines – A narrow, dead-end street and a dilapidated building could spell disaster for thousands of Manila residents rushing to beat the deadline for registration for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in October.
The other day three people were slightly injured as an unruly group scrambled to enter the building before it closed at 5:30 p.m., according to Station 5 commander Supt. Rogelio Rosales.
Rosales denied reports that there was a stampede. He said the three only had minor scratches.
“We have also added 12 policemen to the 12 already there. They’re mostly at the entrance because that’s where the pushing happened,” he said.
Comelec Manila election officer Jovencio Balanquit said two waiting ambulances brought the victims to a hospital. Barricades and steel railings had been set up to contain the crowd.
“Thursday had double the number of people on Wednesday. I think there were almost 4,000 persons,” he said.
Angeli Magat of Sampaloc, who was registering for the first time, said she feared a stampede due to the huge crowd and the lack of another exit on Arroceros Street, where the local Manila Comelec office was. “The registration should have been done at the barangays or in schools,” Magat said, adding that she had already been to the office three times.
Under a Comelec resolution, registration can only be done in the office of the election officer. In Manila, the place to go to was the old structure on Arroceros Street.
Balanquit said they had no choice but to follow the resolution.
Outside the Comelec office thousands waited under the sun, with lines extending from the building to the LRT Central station.
Anthony Duico of Parola, Binondo, was able to register by 10 a.m. yesterday only because he stood in line with some neighbors at 1 a.m.
“We lined up early so we could finish early,” he said. “On Thursday we were here at 2 a.m. and went home at 4 p.m. The system is slow. The SK registrations should have been held in a different place.”
Balanquit said the nearby Universidad de Manila might let them use its lobby for the SK registrations.
But speeding up the process, he said, was difficult because there were different application forms for first-time registration, re-registration, and transfer of registration.
He said only one biometrics machine was allotted to each of six districts, and it took 2 ½ minutes to take a person’s picture and fingerprints.