Residents from different barangays of the city form a long queue outside a mall for the on-going voter registration for the December 5 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (PN photo)

The Puerto Princesa City Council is asking the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to make the current voter registration period longer so that more people can sign up to vote in the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) on December 5.

The move was made because a lot of city residents have been going to the two malls in Puerto Princea, where the City COMELEC is holding mobile registrations, and staying there for several days and nights.

In an impromptu privilege speech, Councilor Elgin Damasco sought the possibility of requesting the City COMELEC for the extension of voter registration.

But city election officer Atty. Julius Cuevas, who was called to the meeting, said that only the COMELEC, through an en banc resolution, has the power to extend the registration period.

“Only the COMELEC en banc can issue a resolution pertaining to the extension and as of the moment, the COMELEC head office has announced that they will not issue any rules or resolution for the voter registration so we’re hoping that everyone will be accommodated come July 23,” Cuevas said, adding that they are also weighing their decision depending on public demands.

Cuevas also explained that based on COMELEC Resolution No. 10798, the satellite registration is only allowed on the first week, which is July 4-9.

He, however, said he opted to conduct the whole period of registration in the malls to be able to accommodate more people.

“We are guided by the COMELEC en banc Resolution 10798, where there is a proviso there, allowing the election officer to formulate policies that will ease the process of registration. I made it a point to conduct the whole 18 days of registration at the two major malls in the city to accommodate more registrants kasi data (shows) na kapag kina-conduct ang registration doon sa city coliseum, ang naa-accommodate lang is 150-180. Ang main factor doon is yung waiting area because yung mga likod ng aircon nakatutok doon sa hallway so yung mga matatanda, hindi makatagal at nag-aalisan,” he explained.

“Our office has provided beforehand, a solution to address the problem, and that is requesting the satellite registration in the two major malls where we accommodated 200-340 registrants,” he said.

He also said that he had thought about bringing the satellite registration to the barangays at first, but that the short period would not be enough for all 66 in the city.

“Hindi rin namin masabi kung mag-satellite registration kami in a particular area, kung ilan ang pwede naming ma-accommodate compared to other areas. Kaya, there’s actually a short period of preparation on our part, kaya minabuti namin na sa mall na lang namin gawin,” he stated.

He stated the offer of the city government to hire more personnel to assist in the registration is not the solution to the long queue of registrants.

“I don’t think manpower will help the process because the problem is yung voter registration machine (VRM). For every city or municipality, we are only allowed to have one VRM. And the VRM that serves as the main server, you can tap another desktop as client which can do the function of the main server. So yung main server, nakaka-accommodate siya ng new registration, transfer, reactivation and then yung function niya pwede niya i-share sa isa pang desktop computer pero yung isa na laptop lang, pang new registration lang siya,” he said.

“Hindi rin pwedeng dagdagan yung laptop dahil may special program yun para sa registration na approved at assigned sa city. And then, yung main server hindi rin pwedeng magkaroon ng another client server. Isa lang talaga ang approved kasi the voter registration naman is continuous where people are allowed to register for three years actually,” he added.

Damasco also asked city administrator Atty. Arnel Pedrosa whether the city administration could do anything about the locals who had been camping outside the malls for many days, to which he replied that there was nothing they could do.

“We cannot prevent them from coming. Sinasamantala nila yung panahon na yan. Kung naaambunan o nauulanan sila pwede naman silang sumilong. Kung sa pagkain naman, wala tayong mapo-provide dahil lahat yan dadaan sa procurement at magkakaroon ng aspetong pulitikal, baka mapulaan pa tayo,” Perdosa explained.

He also explained that while they can only accommodate up to 300 registrants per day, the rest who are lining up outside prefer to stay with the hope of getting accommodated or being the first in line for the next day because the COMELEC does not allow reservations.

“The policy is first come, first served, no reservations. If we allow the giving of numbers for the rest of the people for the following day, we are actually circumventing the no reservation policy. The rest after 300, hindi sila umaalis because they are hoping that we can accommodate more,” he said.

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