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Comelec mulls voting for inmates in 2010

Posted on: March 25, 2009

Comelec mulls voting for inmates in 2010
Technical working group created

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:50:00 03/25/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Prison, Eleksyon 2010

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is coordinating with several groups to study the mechanics on how qualified inmates can vote during 2010 polls, an election official said Wednesday.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said a technical working group was formed to work out a proposal to let detainees or inmates who are not yet convicted to vote next year.

“The technical working group met Tuesday and agreed to push through with this advocacy because it is consistent with political rights of detainees to register and vote for the May 2010 elections,” he said.

“We cannot delay this matter because October 31–the deadline for registration–is just around the corner and we need to harmonize the project with the poll automation time line,” said Sarmiento.

Apart from the Comelec, the technical working group is composed of other officials from Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Commission on Human Rights and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Sarmiento said the group is scheduled to meet soon to finalize the proposal of on-site registration and voting for detainees in their respective penitentiary before submitting the paper to the Comelec en banc for approval.

“If the proposal gets approved, the voter’s registration project for detainees can start hopefully before end of May,” said Sarmiento.

The group was looking at the local absentee voting law for government officials or Executive Order 157 promulgated on March 30, 1987 that could also apply to detainees, the poll official said.

Detainees are still presumed innocent and thus retain their right to vote based on the provisions of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines and international instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said Sarmiento.

Detainees “should not be disenfranchised to vote” as opposed to convicts who have been convicted by the courts, which is a cause for disqualification from voting, added Sarmiento.

A convinct’s right to vote is restored completely if pardoned by the President, added Sarmiento.

When asked if recently released Romeo Jalosjos could vote or run in the 2010 elections, Sarmiento said “Jalosjos has an accessory penalty of ‘perpetual disqualification holding public office.’ Can he vote in 2010? I am not sure about that.”

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