MANILA -- The change in leadership and two successful voter registrations as part of its preparations for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls in May 2018 were among the highlights for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) this year.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez reported that the first voter registration cycle for 2017 has enlisted a total of 1,435,587 new voters and 233,411 new members of the Katipunan ng Kabataan, the electorate for SK elections.

“The success of this first registration period was largely attributable to the effective policy of encouraging the setting up of satellite registration centers throughout the country, as well as the high degree of interest in the upcoming Barangay and SK elections,” he said in a statement.

Jimenez noted that in the second round of registration held from November 6 to 30, following the postponement of the B&SK elections, they have received a total of 843,588 voter registration applications – new voter applications, applications for reactivation, applications for change of name and correction of entries, applications for inclusion and exclusion, and applications for reinstatement in the lists of voters.

“These applications are pending with various Election Registration Boards, for hearing and final action, i.e., approval or disapproval. However, it is certain that a significant number of new voters will be joining the rolls at the end of this process,” he added.

Barangay &SK preparations

The Comelec has printed more than 70 million official ballots. The printing was completed on October 2, 2017, ahead of the scheduled October 23, 2017 elections. But the polls were moved to May 2018 after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the postponement bill authored by Congress on October 4.

The Commission also immediately rolled back all activities (such as the implementation of the Gun Ban), and completed preparations were re-scheduled for implementation during the run-up to, and including the actual conduct of the May 2018 B&SK elections.

Change in leadership

Also in 2017, Chairperson Juan Andres Bautista resigned from his post. Senior Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, upon unanimous vote of the Commission en Banc, immediately assumed the position of Acting Chair.

The action by the en Banc successfully assured continuity of the Comelec's operations.

On November 22, 2017, Duterte nominated Commissioner Sheriff Abas to the post. Pending consent by the Commission on Appointments however, Lim continues in the performance of the duties of the Office.

Voter education

The Comelec’s Education and Information Department has launched its Know Elections Better platform in January. Since then, there have been 43 Know Elections Better Seminar (KEBs) sessions, covering 22 schools and two organizations,

Since the launching, the department has already conducted 43 KEBs voter education sessions in 22 schools and for two 2 organizations, reaching 12,089 voters and pre-voters in Senior High School, with ages ranging from 16 to 18 years.

Promoting inclusivity

2017 was a banner year for the poll body’s Gender and Development Focal Point System (GAD-FPS), which tirelessly promoted gender equality, in and out of the Comelec.

Gender sensitivity trainings – including lectures on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression – were conducted, with the goal of both enhancing the election management body’s continuing efforts to provide a safe and thoroughly professional working environment, and ensuring that our front-line efforts to serve the people would be marked by utmost respect for everyone.

Likewise, GAD-FPS promoted inclusivity and gender-equality in the political arena by convening a successful Women’s Summit on Political Participation in March 2017.

It was followed by several more gatherings such as the Joint ASEAN-UN Workshop and Roundtable Discussion on Electoral Observation and Women’s Participation in Politics, held in Cebu this month. (PNA)