GMA WANTS SPECIAL SESSION TO OK YOUTH REGISTRATION
Manila, March 10, 2001 - President Arroyo yesterday said she is prepared to call Congress to a special session to amend the election law if the Supreme Court rejects a petition of the youth sector group Akbayan to hold a special voters' registration for the May elections.
"The youth should participate in the electoral exercise. It is their very future after all which is at stake," Arroyo said in a press conference.
She said she joins the youth in searching for a way to allow some four million first-time voters who were not able to register by the deadline last Dec. 2 and the implications of failing to register.
But she rejected proposals to postpone the May 14 elections to accommodate the youth voters, saying the electoral process is already underway.
Elections Chairman Alfredo Benipayo has said the Commission on Elections has to reset the elections to a later date to avoid violating the law, if it has to hold a special list-up.
The law provides that a registration should be conducted 120 days before the elections.
Elections Commissioner Luzviminda Tancangco first-time voters had all of three years since 1997 to register.
Arroyo said she is looking for a "flexible interpretation" of the law that would enable the youth to register and vote.
She belied reports she was pushing for a special registration to boost the chances of the candidates of the People Power Coalition.
"That is not the motive. The motive is that if the youth provided such power and such participation in our democratic processes and in our search for truth, they should not be disenfranchised," she added.
Arroyo ordered Malacañang's legal staff last Tuesday to assist Akbayan in its petition before the high court.
Two authorities on election laws said the Comelec was to blame.
Romeo Macalintal said the Comelec should have extended the Dec. 27 deadline to Jan. 14 which is exactly 120 days before the May 14 polls.
Pete Quadra said the Comelec is empowered on its own to call for a special registration, citing a provision of the election law allowing the Comelec to set additional dates of registration in a certain areas to ensure that the voters are not deprived of their right to suffrage."
But Benipayo said the law cited by Quadra is no longer in effect through the Continuing Registration Law which states "no registration shall be held during the period 120 days before election day."
Apart from this, he said, the later law prescribed a new, and arguably more tedious process of registering which takes, at the shortest, a month, according to Benipayo. (Malaya)
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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