By Jewilyn Sta Maria & Badette Panaligan

Cartoon by Aureus Ken Pupa

With the 2022 national elections just around the corner, the voter registration periodwas hampered by some delays and limitations. Extending the voter registration deadline, which the Commission on Elections (Comelec) recently granted and approved by Congress, is a good step forward, but it does not end there. Voting is not just a right but a responsibility.

Amid the massive call for an extension from different personalities, organizations, and the public, the House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously approved the call to extend the deadline for voter registration for another 30 days. Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas said the deadline for voter registration has been extended from October 9 to 31. Greenlighting the extension gives a much prolonged period for aspiring voters to register and exercise their right to suffrage. 

In the statement, Abas also mentioned that there are already 63 million registered voters for the 2022 elections. The majority of them are youth who are willing and progressive to partake in the polls. Previously, the Comelec was not keen on extending voter registration because it supposedly hurdles with the election timeline. Raising voices indeed helps in making something work, as to how groups, lawmakers, organizations, as well as Vice President Leni Robredo had appealed for voter registration extension. The combined efforts to prolong the registration period made by the poll body, youth organizations, Congress, the personalities who represent the people, and the masses in general, deserve recognition. After the move to extend the registration period, some actions could cultivate and help in encouraging more people to register and vote responsibly in the upcoming election.

In June 2021, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri commissioned a survey from Pulse Asia Research, Incorporated, which returned this result that if their barangays have a high number of COVID-19 cases, over half of Filipinos believe they will boycott to vote on May 9, 2022. Pulse Asia executive director Ana Tabunda confirmed the validity of the survey to Rappler on Wednesday, July 28. According to the poll data presented by Zubiri, only 35% of respondents were willing to vote on election day. 46% stated they would prefer not to vote, while 19% said they were undecided.

The barriers imposed by the pandemic could make thousands of Filipinos unable to exercise their right to suffrage. Some people do not have plans on registering and on voting while some do not have the proper education about its importance and its contribution to democracy. Some may think that voting is unnecessary because their individual opinion is insignificant and cannot be compared to millions of other Filipinos. They forget that being a part of a larger whole that makes decisions collectively through collaboration is at the heart of what it means to be a citizen.

Democracy gives Filipinos a form of agency that allows them to have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation. It gives a voice to everyone to have their own opinion and pick on whom they want to lead and be in charge. Every Filipino has a say in deciding what is good and better for this country. Ordinary citizens can assert their influence in government by voting, demonstrating that the standing of elected leaders is based only on their vote. Although the state is responsible for upholding the law, the people have the right to choose leaders who will represent them.

In these challenging times, the youth are encouraged to use their eyes to see the inequalities happening around them. Listen to the screams of the silent majority. Thus, use their voices to speak for the unheard voices and stand up for what is right. If the Filipino people are already eligible, register to vote for the upcoming election and vote critically and wisely. Election 2022 is rapidly approaching, and every vote impacts the country and its future generations. As the saying goes, in a democracy, one voter's ignorance jeopardizes the safety of all so do not miss the last chance to register.