THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said it would stick with one-day elections next year but may extend voting hours amid a coronavirus pandemic.

The extended voting hours would require additional pay for teachers, which the agency’s budget could not cover, Election Commissioner Marlon S. Casquejo told a congressional oversight committee at a hearing.

The Budget department earlier cut the Comelec’s proposed 2022 budget by P15.5 billion to P26.5 billion.

Comelec spokesman James B. Jimenez last month said the higher allowance for teachers is mandated by law.

Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said she would propose to increase the election body’s 2022 budget by P8 billion, which it needs to buy more than 10,000 vote-counting machines.

Comelec owns 97,345 machines but needs at least 10,000 more units so it can limit the number of voters per precinct to 600 given social distancing rules. 

It also said it would not extend voter registration beyond Sept. 30 due to time constraints, despite a call from the Senate and House of Representatives to extend the deadline to Oct. 31

“There are so many preparations that will be affected,” Mr. Casquejo told lawmakers. “We cannot compromise those other preparations.”

Mr. Casquejo said he would talk to his fellow commissioners next week after Cavite Rep Elpidio F. Barzaga, Jr. sought a reconsideration.

Senator María Imelda Josefa “Imee” R. Marcos, who presided over the joint hearing, said voter registration would be halted again for two weeks after the capital region was placed under Alert Level 4.

Mr. Casquejo said areas under a modified enhanced community quarantine should still proceed with the registration.

Registered first-time voters have reached 61.1 million, exceeding the Comelec’s target. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan