Detainees can still vote on May 9 elections

Despite the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) by the Supreme Court, detention prisoners will still be allowed to vote in the coming May 9 National elections.
However, they will only be eligible to vote for national officials, namely President, Vice-President, Senators and Party-list representatives.

This was the clarification issued by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in line with the recent developments where the High Tribunal issued a TRO on detainee voting in response to a petition filed before it by lawyer Philip Aguinaldo, in his capacity as a taxpayer, who questioned some of the provisions ofComelec Resolution 9371.

In a petition dated November 12, lawyer Victor Aguinaldo requested the SC to bar the Comelec and other agencies from implementing the provisions of such resolution.

Promulgated in March 2012, the said Comelec Resolution covers “rules and regulations on detainee registration and voting” in the 2013 and subsequent elections.

Aguinaldo enumerated the following “loopholes, uncertainties, gaps, and ambiguities” in the application of Comelec Resolution 9371,. That it “has created partiality, inequality, prejudice, and injustice because certain detainees were given greater rights or privileges by allowing them to register and vote in the elections as compared to an ordinary or regular voter, or even to an absentee voter”.

Nearly 44,000 prisoners had been allowed to vote during the 2010 and 2013 national and elections.

In granting the petition, the High Court however clarified that “in the interest of expediency and so as not to deprive the qualified detainees of their right to vote, the Court deems it proper to partially grant the prayer for a temporary restraining order on the identified provisions of COMELEC Resolution No. 9371 with a caveat that the TRO only extends to the conduct of elections on the Local Level. Qualified detainees may, if they so choose, participate in the May 9, 2016 elections on the National Level.”

The Comelec, through the Office of Commissioner LuieGuia is now busy preparing some adjustments in its guidelines so as not to disenfranchise the more than 46,000 registered voters nationwide. It promised to come up with new guidelines in time for the elections, which is just a week to from now.

For its part, the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care is now readying its volunteers throughout the country to monitor the conduct of the elections in the different jails and prisons in the country so as to guarantee that they are not disenfranchised and that their voices will be heard come election day. (Gerry Bernabe)

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