Law needed for online voters registration: Comelec
Online registration for new voters for the May 2025 elections is not yet possible unless a law is passed within this year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Wednesday.
“For purposes of the February 2024 (elections), your honor it will be the personal appearance of the voters in view of the present Republic Act 8189,” Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia said during a Senate hearing.
Republic Act 8189 or the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996 provides the system of registration of voters.
“However, in case there will be a law, and the law will be passed within this year, then we will be able to implement it. But they will still have to appear personally. New voters will still have to appear personally before the registration areas either in the offices of the local Comelec or in our satellite registration sites,” he added.
Garcia said other processes, including reactivation of voter registration, corrections, and transfers could be done online because they already have the voters’ information in their database.
Senator Imee Marcos, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation, asked Garcia if providers had offered technology that would allow the online registration of biometrics.
Garcia replied that there would be a problem with securing the identity of the voter in implementing online biometrics registration.
“We saw several technologies, your honor. However, our problem we have really is with the implementation. The problem, your honor is whether these voters are the same ones who will give the biometrics. It’s quite easy to get images even using a smartphone…But however, when it comes to biometrics, it may happen that the voter who wanted to register online is not the same voter who gave the Commission the biometrics, the fingerprint,” Garcia said.
Marcos then floated the proposal that the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) should be allowed to forward PhilSys biometrics to the Comelec so they can use the information for voter registration so voters would not be required to appear physically.
“Your honor, for purposes of data-sharing, we can always enter a data-sharing agreement with the PSA, for purposes of the PhilSys. However, unfortunately, they still have to appear before the Comelec, with all due respect, because we still have to administer the oath,” Garcia answered.
“So even if the PSA will share us the biometrics of the voters, and for those who got the PhilSys ID, they still have to go to the Comelec because their application will still be useless without being administered the oath,” he added.
Marcos pointed out that online registration could convince more overseas Filipino workers to participate in the elections since it would make the process easier for them.
“I think the concern of the legislature is that said online registration and sharing the PhilSys will really impact on greater participation of our OFW, particularly those in the maritime sector, who have great difficulty going back to their consulates and so on, once they’re at sea. To allow certain sectors to register and take their oath online as soon as possible. And PhilSys was one of the options,” she said.
Garcia said they would explore the possibility of administering the oath for OFWs through online platforms.
“Presently we conduct conferencing through Viber and Messenger and such other platform. And definitely, we would like to reach out to our seafarers. In fact, we will have our mall registration for seafarers. In fact, we will set up polling precincts for seafarers before they are deployed,” he said. Jaspearl Tan/DMS