At least three Jesuit schools in Mindanao called on the Commission on Elections to open more satellite registration centers for voters who have yet to register before the deadline on October 30.
The Mindanao Consortium of Ateneos, which comprises the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, and Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, offered its campuses to serve as voter registration sites.
The presidents of the three universities urged the poll body to increase the number of satellite voter registration centers by partnering with universities and colleges.
The consortium said it has persuaded other educational institutions to join the initiative.
“Around 10 million, many of these are young people, are still unable to register for various reasons including the risk brought by the [COVID-19] pandemic,” read the consortium’s statement.
Father Joel Tabora, president of Ateneo de Davao, said the registration cap per day “dispirits especially the first-time voters instead of encouraging them.”
He said the Ateneo schools have decided to open its campuses to accommodate the millions of registrants who were denied registration as the election commission has reportedly limited its daily registration quota to only 300 individuals.
Father Karel San Juan, Ateneo de Zamboanga president, said the right to vote and the right to health are equally important.
“Ensuring that people are able to cast their votes and securing their safety from [COVID-19] are both goods to be preserved. Disenfranchisement needs to be avoided as we must avoid the deadly virus,” said Father San Juan.
He said balancing both requires creativity, including partnering with schools to become satellite registration sites.
Father Mars Tan, Xavier University president, assured that minimum health standards are to be observed if the Ateneo schools are allowed to be voter registration sites.
“Schools would employ the same safety protocols as when they opened their doors to help out in the vaccination rollout,” said Father Tan.
“Exploring mobile registration activities to remote areas can also be an option to make registration accessible to voters in the margins,” said the priest.