MANILA - Postponement of voter registration amid the coronavirus pandemic "might cause problems down the line," a Commission of Elections (Comelec) official said Thursday.
This, after the Metro Manila Council reportedly asked the country's inter-agency task force (IATF) focused on the COVID-19 response to delay the registration due to the continuous rise of infections.
"The most important thing to understand right now is that we still have about 4 million people that need to get registered. These are the people that have recently become eligible to register to vote and that sort of load we're trying to carry now," Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).
"If you think that it's difficult for people now, then it might be a little more difficult next year when you have that much less time to do the whole thing in."
Jimenez said the commission is making sure the commission's office and its branches will be safe for the voter registration.
He said the Comelec has the jurisdiction on the schedule of the registration, but it respects whatever the IATF recommends.
"We understand that because of the pandemic, we really have to respect the recommendations of the task force charged with the leading the nation's response to it," he said.
Jimenez said that Comelec offices have strictly followed anti-coronavirus policies, such as physical distancing.
"We have plastic barriers inside the office, and entry inside the office is actually limited to less than half of capacity in many cases. It's very important that these measures are being followed by the Comelec, including, as you can see right now, the filling up of health declarations," he said.
Registrants were advised to fill up health declaration forms for contact tracing and undergo temperature scans. They were also encouraged to download voter application forms and set up online appointments.
"We understand not everyone can have access to the internet but those who do, we encourage them to download the forms and fill them out so they don't have to fill them out in those areas," Jimenez said.
"We encourage them to download the forms and fill them out, ready to submit."
The Comelec is prepared for alternative modes of voting if a scenario comes up, like another public health emergency, said Jimenez.
"We are preparing to make sure that the COVID places are safe but at the same time, we are also pushing legislative action and supporting legislative action that would allow us to have alternative modes of voting. So we hope that would be sooner or later so that in the end what will happen is that we'll have fewer people on election day," he said.