By ATTY. GREGORIO LARRAZABAL
With almost 270,000 applications processed by the various Comelec city and municipal offices last week alone, I hope the trend continues and the number of applications processed either maintains that number, or, as I expect, the number of applications on a weekly basis increase. Significantly, I must add, as the deadline for registration approaches (which is Sept. 30, 2019). Considering how some people like to do things at the last minute.
Many people focus on the procedures in applying for voter registration. However, that’s just the start of the process of a person being a voter. Today we’ll discuss the step when the individual actually becomes a voter. That happens when the Election Registration Board (ERB) APPROVES your application.
What is the importance of the Election Registration Board?
Whenever someone fills up the Voter Registration Application Form, the individual is actually just an applicant to be a voter. He/she is not yet a full-fledged voter. What confirms the application/s is the action taken by the Election Registration Board on applying or denying the applications Who are the members of the Election Registration Board?
In accordance with Sec. 15., RA 8189, the Election Registration Board is composed of the Election Officer as chairman and as members, the public school official most senior in rank and the local civil registrar, or in this absence, the city or municipal treasurer.
In case of disqualification of the Election Officer, the Commission shall designate an acting Election Officer who shall serve as chairman of the Election Registration Board. In case of disqualification or non-availability of the Local Registrar or the Municipal Treasurer, the commission shall designate any other appointive civil service official from the same locality as substitute.
Generally, it’s the Provincial Election Supervisor of the province who acts as chairman of the ERB in case there is an issue with the Election Office of the city/municipality. An example of which was when I was the provincial election supervisor of Bulacan back in 2005, there was one registration cycle where I was also the chairman of the ERB for Malolos City, because at that time, the Election Officer was detailed to the Comelec Central Office.
Is there a disqualification for the members of the ERB?
Yes. No member of the board shall be related to each other or to any incumbent city or municipal elective official within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity. If in succeeding
elections, any of the newly elected city or municipal officials is related to a member of the board within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, such member is automatically disqualified, to preserve the integrity of the Election Registration Board.
When do the ERBs meet?
All applications for registration shall be heard and processed on a quarterly basis. For this quarter, the ERBs all over the country are set to have their hearings on October 21, 2019. For smaller municipalities and cities with minimal applications submitted, the ERB hearing lasts only a day. But in areas where there are a lot of applications for registration, or a number of applications are contested, the hearing lasts a couple of days.
Is there a requirement to post a notice of the hearing?
Yes. The deadline to post the notice of hearing is October 7, 2019. The list of applicants for registration must also be given to the representatives of political parties, and other accredited groups or organizations which actively participate in the electoral process in the city or municipality.
Can people participate and observe the proceedings?
Yes. Watchers of political parties and accredited groups may observe the proceedings. Those who also applied for voter registration may decide to watch the proceedings. What’s important is that they do not disrupt the proceedings.
Who can challenge an application for registration?
Any voter, candidate or representative of a registered political party may challenge in writing any application for registration, stating the grounds therefor. The challenge shall be under oath and be attached to the application, together with the proof of notice of hearing to the challenger and the applicant.
When is the deadline to file an opposition to an application for voter registration?
The deadline to file an opposition is October 14, 2019.
What happens after the ERB decides on the applications?
Within five days from approval or disapproval of application, the ERB shall post a notice in the bulletin board of the city or municipal hall and in the office of the Election Officer, stating the name and address of the applicant, the date of the application, and the action taken thereon. The Election Officer shall furnish a copy of such notice personally, or by registered mail or special delivery to the applicant and heads or representatives of registered political parties in the city or municipality.
Next week we’ll discuss the political value of voter registration.