CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Three Mindanao-based Ateneo schools are urging the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to open more satellite registration centers for voters who have yet to register as the deadline on October 30 nears.
The Mindanao Consortium of Ateneos (MCA) – composed of Ateneo de Davao University, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, and Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan – said they are willing to have their campuses be available as voter registration sites.
In a joint statement released on October 13, the presidents of the three Ateneo universities in Mindanao have strongly urged COMELEC to increase the number of satellite voter registration centers by partnering with universities and colleges.
In fact, they said, the MCA has also persuaded other educational institutions to join in their call.
MCA has noted that COMELEC was only able to register 73 million qualified Filipino voters surpassing their target of 61 million registrants.
But the consortium added the are still millions of potential voters who have yet to register.
“Around 10 million, many of these are young people, are still unable to register for various reasons including the risk brought by the [Covid-19] pandemic,” the MCA said.
Fr. Joel Tabora, Ateneo de Davao president, has echoed the growing frustration of the Filipinos saying, “the registration cap per day dispirits especially the first-time voters instead of encouraging them.”
He said the Ateneo schools have decided to open their campuses to accommodate the millions of registrants that were denied registration as COMELEC has reportedly limited its daily registration quota of only 150 to 300 persons.
“We received reports showing that some COMELEC centers do not close earlier than the extended registration hour of 7:00 PM but also disrespect the fast-tracking mechanisms by not making use of the online pre-registration forms,” Tabora added.
Fr. Karel San Juan, Ateneo de Zamboanga president, said the right to vote and the right to health are equally important.
“Ensuring that people are able to cast their votes and securing their safety from [Covid-19] are both goods to be preserved. Disenfranchisement needs to be avoided as we must avoid the deadly virus,” San Juan said.
He added that balancing both requires creativity including partnering with schools to be become satellite registration sites.
For Fr. Mars Tan, Xavier University president, they assured that minimum health standards are to be observed if the COMELEC taps Ateneo schools as its voter registration sites.
“Schools would employ the same safety protocols as when they opened their doors to help out in the vaccination rollout,” Tan said, adding, “exploring mobile registration activities to remote areas can also be an option to make registration accessible to voters in the margins.”
The three presidents also lauded the passage of Republic Act 11591 or an Act fixing the last day of registration of voters for the 2022 national and local elections and committed to campaign for a more vigorous registration activity in their respective spheres of operation.
MCA has also amplified the call for the timely release of the 2022 election guidelines so that the nation can start preparing given the challenges of the pandemic.