MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes scolded last minute registrants who flocked to Comelec offices Friday to register for the 2013 midterm elections.
Brillantes was greeted by chaotic long lines in the poll body's offices in Quezon City, Makati City and Manila.
Brillantes talked to election officers to check the voter registration machines after being informed that machines in Makati City would hang sometimes, thus limiting the number of registrants that can be accommodated.
He also talked to some of the registrants, some of whom even spent Thursday night outside the Comelec office just to make it to the cutoff for the day.
Election offices have a daily cutoff depending on the capacity of the voter registration machines.
Brillantes lost his patience several times when he asked those who were in the queues why they waited until there are only 5 days left before the end of the registration period.
One teacher whose registration was deactivated cited her busy work schedule as her reason. When told she could have come on a Saturday, she couldn’t give Brillantes an answer.
Brillantes said, “Alam niyo ho ba dalawang taon na kami naghihintay, bukas ang opisina araw-araw, bakit ngayon ka lang? Hindi dapat ganito ginawa ng tao, sa huling araw nagpaparehistro. Walang sisihan ‘pag ‘di nakarehistro. Kasalanan (‘yan) ng tao.”
He also pointed out that Comelec employees are the ones who suffer because of the surge of last minute registrants. He said they have been working overtime from Mondays to Saturdays and holidays just to accommodate the large number of registrants.
“Gusto niyo ho pahirapan mga tao namin? Bukas kami araw-araw for the last 2 years. Pinahihirapan niyo kami. Gusto niyo magdagsaan katapusan na…tapos magagalit (kayo) samin,” he said.
Brillantes also maintained that there would be no extension for the registration. He added that the poll body also denied the Department of Foreign Affairs’ request for an extension for overseas voters.
To date, there are already 915,000 registered overseas Filipino voters. Brillantes said the Comelec projects the final number of registered voters to be at 50 million.
“Bakit tayo mag-extend for people who did not care in the 1st place? Walang sisihan tayo. Sino may kasalanan? Pare-pareho tayo. Pati makina baka sumabog ‘yan. We will accommodate as (many as) we can but we stop on the last day,” he added.
However, Brillantes said the Comelec may have also not focused on informing the public about the registration dates.
He said he thinks most of those who flocked to register at the last minute are transferees and those seeking to reactivate their registration. A voter is deactivated after failing to vote in 2 consecutive elections.
Brillantes also said he is wary of politicians gathering people to register—otherwise known as “hakot.”
Brillantes said that from his experience as election lawyer, some politicians bring illegitimate registrants just to displace legitimate prospective voters in registration lines.
He said there is no problem with “hakot” as long as those being gathered are legitimate registrants in the area.
On October 31, the last day of registration, election officers will cut off the lines at 1 p.m. to make sure registration ends by 5pm.
Brillantes said he will personally close the voter registration in Quezon City.
The poll body will then cleanse the voters’ list of multiple registrants and validate voter records.
Meanwhile, Brillantes said the final list of candidates for senator will be announced on Monday while the next list of disqualified party-list groups will be announced on Wednesday.
He said Samson Alcantara and businessman Richard Penson will be added to the first 27 who already passed the screening of the poll body.