Voters Extended Registration Nationwide

MANILA, Philippines - A Commission on Elections official on Wednesday said there is no need to extend the nationwide registration of voters since the poll body has already exceeded the target number of registrants for the May 2010 elections.

Comelec legal chief Ferdinand Rafanan said more than 50 million Filipinos are registered for next year's elections, 3 million more than the Comelec's target of 47 million.

"There was no necessity to add more registered voters because we have exceeded our target. It's more than 50 percent of the total population of the Philippines," Rafanan told ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda.

He said the Supreme Court's (SC) decision to extend the voters' registration to January 9, 2010 would disrupt "very, very tight timelines for automation."

In a 9-page unanimous decision penned by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, the Court en banc granted the petition filed by Kabataan party-list led by Raymond Palatino seeking to declare null and void Comelec Resolution No. 8585, which shortened the deadline of voters registration to October 31, 2009, instead of December 15, 2009, as previously fixed by Comelec Resolution No. 8514.

In its decision, the Supreme Court said the people’s right to suffrage “is at the heart of our constitutional democracy." It said the Comelec has no valid ground to justify its non-compliance to the system of continuing voter registration mandated under Section 8 of Republic Act 8189 or the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996.

Rafanan said that with the SC ruling, the Comelec would have to throw away all its prepared official list of registered voters and start over again.

Programming of the voters' names that would be loaded to the voting machines would also have to scrapped, he added.

Rafanan said the Comelec will file a motion for reconsideration and ask the high court to reverse its ruling.

If the petition is denied, Rafanan said the Comelec en banc has already set a tentative timeline for the extended voters' registration.

He said the tentatively agreed dates for registration were December 21, 22, 23, 28 and 29. After the New Year break, Comelec offices will again open for registration for the posting of a list of people who have registered on January 4.

The Election Registration Board will meet by January 9 for the finalization of the official list of voters.

Rafanan, meanwhile, said the Comelec does not expect to encounter the same problem they had during the registration of voters last October.

He said they expect shorter lines and they do not expect all qualified voters to register during the extended timeline.

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