Franchising yourself

Franchising yourself

The pandemic has forced unwanted compromises on many of us, in the name of public health and personal safety. In many cases, this wasn’t because those matters we put off were any less important just less urgent given the threat of COVID.

But a matter’s urgency is largely a function of time, and some things can’t be put aside indefinitely. Such is the case when it comes to voter’s registration. The deadline for registration of voters who wish to vote in next year’s election is Sept. 30, a short 16 days from now, and while anything is possible, reports indicate that the Comelec’s stance is that it cannot extend the deadline without delaying the election itself.

The right to vote, to participate in the selection of a nation’s public servants, is essential to any political system that calls itself democratic. The right of suffrage in a democratic country is the “right of rights,” the right from which all other rights stem, and for good reason. The exercise of the right to vote is the primary means by which the people both empower elected leaders and hold them accountable. It’s why so much blood has been shed, so many movements begun, over the right to vote and have a say in our own government, from the women’s suffrage movement to our own Philippine Revolution.

Still, no revolution will empower you to use that right if you are not a registered voter. A great many Filipinos already understand this, and are either already registered to vote or enduring long lines at registration sites to submit and process their documents. While the Comelec has a beautifully (and hilariously) illustrated website at https://magparehistroka.com/ that has our national heroes reminding you of the sacrifices they made to ensure future generations of Filipinos had a say in their governments, most of us don’t actually need to be given a guilt trip in order to register.

Even for those who are committed to registering to vote, the pandemic and quarantine restrictions meant we could not simply act on that decision – in some areas, almost eight months of voter registration was lost due to lockdown closures. Within the limited time available, it again comes down to urgency – there’s always a hundred little things to do, and in the past year and more seemingly a dozen crises to manage. We have a limited amount of time, energy and resources, and there are days when it can all simply seem too much to manage. Looking at the events that occurred over the past two years, both here and around the world, can leave us feeling helpless and powerless. In the face of all this, it can feel naïve to believe that one vote could make a difference.

Perhaps. But isn’t just about one vote – even putting aside the possibility that one vote could make the difference. Even if it’s a vote for a candidate without a chance of victory, even if you choose to abstain – you will be counted. You will have a say. And even if right now you feel that you won’t end up voting next year, there is still meaning in the act of registration. During a time when we feel powerless, registration is a guaranteed way of empowering yourself, of enfranchising yourself. You cannot vote without being registered, and no one but you can complete that process. If you register and end up not voting, you would still have empowered yourself to make that decision – without registering, next year you will have no choice, and no power to be counted.

* * *

The Comelec has taken steps to make it easier for prospective voters to learn about their status, accomplish the paperwork and locate the most convenient venue for submission of their documents.

You can use the Voter Registration Service Test at https://votepilipinas.com/ (an automated questionnaire) to be given assistance that is relevant to your voting status. For example, if you don’t know if you’re still registered, the test result will provide you with the address and contact number for your local Office of the Election Officer. It’s advisable to call so that you can learn whether the office is accepting walk-ins or requires an appointment.

There are also satellite registration locations, such as at Robinson’s and SM Malls, which you can find on the Comelec’s social media accounts such as https://twitter.com/COMELEC/

You also can be walked through the registration process with a motion comic at https://magparehistroka.com/

The Comelec is also allowing virtual reactivation of records for delisted (not brand new) voters but only for those whose biometrics are already in the COMELEC system.

For those who need to put in an appearance, the COMELEC has provided PDFs of the necessary forms at http://bit.ly/MagpaRehistroKaNa or you can accomplish them on your web browser at https://irehistro.comelec.gov.ph/ Note that you will still need to print these and bring them with you when you appear before the election officer – but do NOT sign the Voter’s Registration form at home. You must do this in front of the election officer.

One more document you need to prepare is a Coronavirus Self-Declaration form which you can get here: https://votepilipinas.com/assets/data/pdfs/COVIDDECLARATIONFORM.pdf

For persons with disabilities or others who may need an assistant to accompany you, fill up a Supplementary Data Annex you can find here: https://comelec.gov.ph/php-tpls-attachments/VoterRegistration/ApplicationsForms/Annex_B_SupplementaryData.pdf

Other reminders: bring an ID (along with one front and back photocopy of it) which has your full name, picture, birthdate and address which must be in the city/town you are registering at; bring supporting documents of residence such as Lease Contract and/or Proof of Billing (for high school and college students, please bring your Registration Form and/or Library card); and bring your face mask and shield.

* * *

The pandemic is still a daily reality, and your immediate safety and that of your own family must always be taken into account. But if you have yet to register but are qualified to do so, if you are unregistered but can register yourself safely – please do so before Sept. 30.

Whatever you think of the potential candidates, whether you think you’ll vote or not – registering to vote is something that you owe to yourself.

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Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com

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