MANILA - These days, signing up to vote is just one step away from your screens.
With exactly 83 days left for voter's registration for next year's national elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is boosting its campaign to have more Filipinos become a part of the electoral process.
The commission on June 12 launched its interactive website magparehistroka.com where national heroes and key figures of the Philippine revolution like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Tandang Sora were featured to remind Filipinos of their voting power.
"Pinaglaban naming makaboto kayong lahat so dapat lang achievin n’yo ‘to… Alam mo bang nauna pang bumoto ang babae sa Pilipinas kaysa sa France at Japan?" former First Lady Aurora Quezon said in the infographic, while also telling potential voter registrants to follow the minimum health protocols when they submit their application.
(We fought for your right to vote so you should be able to do it. Don't you know that the women in Philippines were allowed to vote first before the women in France and Japan?)
"Wag ka nang lumandi do'n," she added.
(Do not flirt there)
Magparehistro ka's engaging infographics, where one could also download forms among other things, signaled Comelec's full digital pivot in its registration campaign amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
During the same month, Comelec also launched the Mobile Registration Form App that runs through any Android device in 500 areas nationwide.
Comelec wanted to have more Filipinos transfer, reactivate, or change their voting registration details. A QR code will be generated after they completed filling up their information, which they should show physically to an election office for confirmation.
In February, the agency announced the extension of voting hours from Monday to Saturday, including holidays, so those who were unable to sign up because of their work would be accommodated.
This strategy, according to Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez, aimed to target first time voters and the young people, among others.
"The most important group that we are looking now are... the voters that are voting for the first time in 2022. They form the largest bloc of all age demographics," Jimenez explained in a virtual event organized by Vote Pilipinas on Thursday.
On July 2, Comelec also partnered with the Department of Education (DepEd) for an information drive targeting senior high school students.
The message of education officials and the commission was clear: the youth's vote has the power to influence the elections with their numbers alone, comprising 35 percent or 22 million of the total votes during the 2019 elections.
VOTER REGISTRATION AMID PANDEMIC 'SUCCESSFUL'
The Comelec had suspended voting registrations in several sites when the country experienced record virus infections in March and April, losing thousands of possible applicants during the period.
But Jimenez, who also heads the commission's Education and Information Department, said that all things considered, Comelec is still successful in their campaign to have more registered voters by the end of September.
"Absolutely, considering that this is happening in the middle of the pandemic. You are looking at voter registration turnout that has already exceeded expectations long before the end of the registration period," he explained.
"We are... days away from registration yet we already exceeded expectations," he added.
As of late June, a total of 60,117,180 million Filipinos are registered, including 4.3 million people who are first time registered voters, the commission said.
Jimenez also said they are "on track" to reach the minimum 61 million total Filipino voters by the end of the registration period, as it is possible to garner another million new voters in the remaining days.
"That would be a very great development considering that... when you have elections like this, you want as many voters as possible. We expect to be hitting 61 million for 2022 in time for the elections in May next year."
The official said Comelec has more plans in store to charm Filipinos to become voters.
This includes, he said, setting up more satellite registration sites in malls, localities, and in barangay halls to serve more Filipinos.
"What we are trying to do, is we are trying to increase the number of places where you can register. Dati kasi you can only register at the registration itself at the Comelec offices," he said.
We are partnering with different developers so that we have satellite registration. We do that in barangay halls, we do that in church yards… we are going to do that in malls."
Ces Rondario, Vote Pilipinas lead, urged Filipinos to have voter registration as an activity among family and friends.
Vote Pilipinas is Comelec's official voter registration information campaign partner.
The organization also has an interactive website, developed with Comelec, which provides pertinent information for voter registration that you can visit here.
"Hopefully they commit 100 percent of their staff, students, household, their barkada to register... lalo na yung pamilya because they are going to be registering in the same place," said Rondario.
"The tool we have developed with Comelec allows you to get all the information that you need to lessen your time in the election offices so we can spare everybody from the illness."
VOTING REGISTRATION 'AVAILABLE AND SAFE'
For Jimenez, it is important for Filipinos to share the information that registration is ongoing even with the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the Comelec offices are safe for the public's health.
"People tend to fear that the registration isn’t going on or that it’s been suspended somehow or that it’s a difficult process," he said.
"We have to make people understand that registration, voter registration even during the pandemic is available and safe," he noted.
Dexter Galban, commissioner of the Commission on Population & Development, emphasized the importance of voting registration ahead of the elections, as it could help them plan their votes with their family.
"For us, we have this tagline that 'panalo ang planado' (a person who plans is a winner) and what better way to prepare for the future than planning your vote correctly and registering for the democratic process," according to Galban.
Lawyers Joseph Vega and Michael Sarmiento, election officers in Luzon, said it is important to maintain health standards in election offices to generate a high public confidence when signing up to vote.
Vega, an election officer in Antipolo, Rizal, noted that voter's registration has been a "challenge."
"Ang maganda kasi ang partnership with [local government units]... and partnership with city health... Ang pinaka-importante doon is makita namin na nagrerehistro pero safe pa rin ang mga tao, pero may mga nagpa-positive pa rin minsan," according to the election officer.
(It is good that we have partnerships with local governments and the city health. What is more important is seeing these people register and that they are safe from the virus, even if we cannot prevent it)
Meanwhile, Sarmiento said voting registration has been "very smooth" so far since standard health protocols have been in place at their offices in Dagupan.
"Nakita na namin yung significant increase of our daily turnout... base sa mga interviews natin, nakikita nila yung significance ng pagrerehistro," Sarmiento added.
(We already saw the significant increase of our daily turnout. Our interviews showed that these people have seen the significance of voter's registration)
"Very pivotal itong pandemic nito to gauge 'yung performance ng ating incumbent officials... 'Yung anxiety to go to our registration sites, physically nabawasan na 'yan."
(This pandemic is pivotal to gauge our officials' performance.)
New voters must be 18 years old on or before the May 9, 2022 elections.
They must be a resident of the Philippines for at least one year and in the place wherein he or she plans to vote for at least six months before the elections.
HOW DO WE REGISTER AS VOTERS?