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Walk caravan across Luzon to enlist voters

BAGUIO CITY, Benguet—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will launch next month a “walk caravan” across Luzon from Laoag City in Ilocos Norte to Sorsogon in the Bicol Region to raise public awareness on the need for voters to register under a new biometrics system, a senior official said on Thursday.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the caravan dubbed as “Waka-waka” will start on May 6 from the northern part of Luzon to the southern tip of the island to entice voters to visit their nearest Comelec office and check if they are included under the new system.

“Our records show that 14 percent of 53 million registered voters or 9.6 million people do not have prescribed biometrics record and they stand to be disenfranchised in the May 2016 elections,” Jimenez said.

The walk, which will start with a core group of 10 people, was expected to reach Intramuros, Manila on June 1. They will be distributing leaflets and other information materials to communities along the way.

In Manila, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, the six commissioners and other officials will join the walk from Intramuros to Rizal Park, where a program will be held. The biometrics system requires capturing a person’s fingerprints in the computer as a means to establish identity.

Brillantes said the Comelec will undertake nationwide registration drives and will  seek the help of civic groups to help people get their records straightened out so they can vote in the next elections.

“As much as possible, we do not want a significant number of our registered voters to be disenfranchised. That is why we are doing our best to reach out to them so that they will be able to vote,” Brillantes said.

“We will be establishing satellite registration centers, especially in the remote communities. We will be visiting churches, shopping malls and other public places where people gather to inform them of our upcoming registration period and for voters without biometrics to have their pictures, signature and fingerprints taken,” he said.

Commissioner Grace Padaca said the registration period for the May 2016 elections will start on May 6, 2014 and last until October 31, 2015 and most of the 9.6 million voters without biometrics records were in Region IV-A, Region III and the National Capital Region.

She said voters who failed to vote in the last two consecutive elections have been removed from the list of registered voters and they must register anew to vote in 2016.

The Waka-waka will continue from Bicol to Visayas in September and then to Mindanao in December, Padaca said.

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