New voters wait long lines to beat registration deadline

By Maria Althea Teves, Newsbreak

Posted at Oct 27 2009 05:48 PM | Updated as of Dec 16 2009 11:20 PM

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) extended registration hours, but despite complaints, there will be no extension to the October 31 deadline for voter list-up

On the day I registered to vote, I had to take a bath twice—before and after registration. The long wait I had to endure in a crowded gymnasium was a tiring but eye opening experience.

I was not alone in wanting to make that real and direct influence to the kind of government we will have from 2010 to 2016. There were so many teenagers and adults all wanting to register and vote.

Housewife Elizabeth Landicho, 50, said she finally registered for the first time because she is tired of the corruption and social injustice she witnessed in the country.

“I hope to complete the whole registration process so I could say that I did something to change the administration,” said the hopeful housewife who thinks that it is better to register late in life than never.

Below target

Commissioner Sarmiento said that he is hopeful that the Comelec will reach the 47-million-target of registered voters for the upcoming elections.

Because of media organizations’ advocacy for clean and honest elections, the Comelec had no difficulties attracting people, Sarmiento said: “The registrants are lining up in almost all registration centers.”

“Lagi ko’ng binibida ang ABS-CBN Boto Mo iPatrol Mo sapagkat sa tingin ko iyan ang pinaka-epektibong panghihikayat sa mga gustong maging botante,” he said in an earlier interview.

However, perhaps because of the number of people registering, the Comelec has been facing problems trying to accommodate all who line up.

Sarmiento’s executive assistant Kristoffer Llacuna admitted that because of time constraints, a lot of registrants are not able to finish the biometrics capturing, the last in the 3-step registration process.

Sarmiento said that the following are the registration steps:

1)     Submit your photocopied ID in the first window or counter of the registration center;

2)     Go to the next window or counter of the registration center to receive your application form. When you receive your application form that means you have been verified by the registration officers as a resident of a certain municipality;

3)     You undergo biometrics capturing: finger print and signature recording and picture taking.

So many registrants

The limited time, coupled with the volume of people registering a day posted problems for the Comelec. From the looks of it, they might not reach their target.

The latest Election Registration Board (ERB) hearing last July 20 showed that there, so far, there are already 45.4 million registered voters—1.6 of whom are newly registered. To meet its target, the Comelec needed to register 1.6 million more from that day until registration period closes.

Sarmiento said that the Comelec is able to register 150-200 per day in each registration center. There are 1,650 registration centers in the country. 

The registration process per se, Sarmiento said, is quite fast: 30-40 minutes for the first and second steps, and it will only take 5-10 minutes to complete the biometrics capturing.

But the long wait in lines proved to be upsetting for some registrants.

I, for one, got very impatient during the mobile registration in our village last August 29, 2009.

Mobile registration is Comelec’s project to go to highly-populated barangays to register in their area so they do not have to travel, said Llacuna.

I thought that since I registered via mobile registration, it would be faster. I finished the first two steps of the registration process and I was asked to complete the biometrics capturing a different day at the QuezonCity hall, our village’s municipality.

My application process:

Submitting the photocopy of my identification card

Wait in line: 30-45 minutes

This is the line on the first counter where I submitted the photocopy of an identification card (ID).

The table at the side of the line only had a bond paper indicating that an ID photocopy is needed. Not everyone saw this sign.

Having the ID photocopied

Wait in line: 30 minutes

I came prepared with a photocopy of my ID, but for those who did not know that this is the first requirement had to line up for more-or-less 30 minutes to have their IDs photocopied.

Filling out the sheet of paper for the ID photocopy

Waiting time: 5-10 minutes

When you reach the front of the line for ID photocopy submission, they asked the registrants to fill out their name, address, birthday and barangay even though the information are already indicated in the ID.

After I submitted the photocopy of my ID, staff at the mobile registration center verified whether I was already registered before. After that, they called out my name so I could fill out my application form.

Waiting time: 2 hours

The next step is to fill out the 3 copies of the voters’ registration application form given by the Comelec.

Duration: 15-20 minutes

Total time spent:

2 hours 55 minutes

Those who lined up to get their IDs photocopied:

4 hours

Long lines

Also present that mobile registration day was Frances Mendiola, 22. “I went there excited and prepared with a photocopy of my ID by 11:30 am. I got called back 2:30 pm. I am glad I went home to have lunch,” she said.

Mendiola’s friend Kristine Esmerio, 22, came with her mother without photocopies of their IDs. “It takes longer for those who did not know that they need to photocopy their IDs first, they had a really tough time lining up,” she said.

“I thought mobile registration is supposed to be easier,” Mendiola said with an exasperated breath.

She said that the lines were long because of the number people. “The subdivision alone has thousands of people, the inclusion of neighboring villages made the process slow because of the overwhelming number of registrants that needed to be verified,” she said.

Another registrant, Sebastian Juano, 23, was also not pleased.

“My registration was disastrous—I was even excited, but the inefficient process ticked me off,” Juano said referring to the “unreasonable” task of writing down the information found on the ID on the same sheet of paper where it was photocopied.

Biometrics capture

Some registrants found that being early is no guarantee that you will not be able to finish the registration process on the same day.

Emergency room doctor Glenn Tan, 29, arrived at 5:45 am in QC hall on a rainy Saturday last September. Because he was earlier than others, he expected to wait 2 hours until the opening of registration.

Tan was able to submit the photocopy of his ID at window 1 at 8:10 am. He got his application form within  an hour after that.

Twenty-two year old Grace Hibaya who originated from Dipolog,Mindanao said she lined up at 6am in QC Hall to finish registration early. 

Landicho also arrived at 6am and said that it took her only 30 minutes to complete step 1 and 2 at the Quezon City Hall—just like what Sarmiento said.

However, all three were asked to come back another day to undergo biometrics capturing.

Landicho and Tan did not mind being asked to return. Landicho said that she is fine lining up another day because it would have time to do chores at home.

Tan also said he is willing to come back since he really wants to vote for the upcoming elections. “I am leaving next year to be an overseas worker I will comply with the process so I could vote,” he said.

But not all were happy at the thought of being asked to come back another day just for the last process of registration.

Mendiola was asked to go to theQuezonCity hall to undergo biometrics capture a month after her application process. “That’s why I registered here, so I don’t have to go to city hall,” she said.

“It is such a hassle, I waited so long. I devoted a day of rest for this only to find out that I did not finish the process yet. I thought [mobile registration] was a one-stop-shop for registration. I was wrong and I am very disappointed,” she lamented.

I was one of those who had to return for biometrics capture. At first I was irritated but when I finished the process, which did not really take long, it was fine. Half the time, I was sitting and waiting in an air-conditioned room at theQuezon City hall, which made the wait more pleasant.

My biometrics process

8:34 am

I was 27th in line to go inside to submit my application form.

8:38 am

Five people were asked to go inside.

8:57 am

Another five people were asked to go inside.

9:06 am

Another five people were asked to go inside.

9:08 am

Another five people were asked to go inside.

9:11 am

I went inside.

9:12 am

I submitted my filled-out application form.

9:13-9:27 am

I waited for my turn.

9:28 am

I underwent biometrics capturing. I had my picture taken, first. Then, I was asked to press my fingers (both thumbs and pointing fingers) on a scanner. I also signed on a pad so they could have a digital copy of my signature.

9:31 am

The biometrics capturing was finished. They gave me an acknowledgement receipt.

Total time:

57 minutes

Comelec’s Llacuna explained that because of the volume of people registering they had to schedule people for biometrics another day.”

“We are not able to maximize the DCM’s capacity to record 250 registrants,” he explained. “The time of registration within the day would not be enough.”

Extended registration hours

Biometrics capturing is a key part of the registration process.

Sarmiento explained that although there will be no finger print verification in the upcoming elections, the information given through biometrics—which will be recorded in a registered voters’ book—can be used by the election officers to contest the identity of a suspicious voter.

With so many hopeful and willing registrants, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) extended registration hours for the last days of voters’ registration.

Since October 22 until October 30, registration centers will be open 8am-9pm instead of closing at 5pm. Further, on the last day of registration, October 31, registration centers will be open until midnight.

Commissioner Sarmiento said there will not be any extension beyond October 31.

He told that, given the extension of registration hours, he is hopeful and confident that the Comelec will be able to accommodate people still trying to beat the Commission’s deadline for registration. – Newsbreak