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Detainees can vote in 2010 polls—Comelec

Posted on: June 3, 2009

Detainees can vote in 2010 polls—Comelec

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:24:00 06/03/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2010

MANILA, Philippines—An official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday said that for the first time in a long time, detainees will be able to exercise their right of suffrage in the upcoming 2010 elections.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, Comelec commissioner and head of the technical working group (TWG) for detainee voting, said detainees, or individuals who are in jail but have not been sentenced, are still presumed innocent and retain their right of suffrage.

In previous polls, detainees have failed to vote due to “legal and administrative” limitations, he said.

“In our en banc meeting on Tuesday, we have finalized the resolution for detainee registration and voting in the 2010 elections,” Sarmiento told INQUIRER.net.

He said the Comelec en banc amended some parts of the TWG proposal. Among them is that Comelec and not the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology would implement both the registration and voting of the detainees.

He said Comelec’s Election and Barangay Affairs Department would oversee the registration while the office of Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino the voting.

“In the past, there have been reservations from the part of Comelec to implement this initiative but now that it is approved, I can say we have achieved a quantum leap for setting the captive votes free and allow them to be heard by our elected leaders,” he added.

There will be two modes of detainee registration: on-site satellite registration and off-site escorted registration at municipal or city Election Offices via express lane for detainees, said Sarmiento.

For on-site satellite registration, the detention facility must have at least 200 detainees who are qualified to register as voters. In this mode, detainees may also transfer their registration records.

In facilities which have fewer than 200 detainees who are qualified to register and vote, an off-site escorted voting is preferred. Under this mode, detainees need to obtain a court order to allow them to go to their town or city; they must be accompanied by BJMP personnel for security purposes, said Sarmiento.

Under the law, a municipality or city election officer (EO) is required “to register all residents of the municipality or city where he is posted.” If a detainee is transferred to another detention facility, the detainee’s registration information will also be transferred to the new detention facility.

On election day, detainees will be eligible to vote in the city or municipality where their registration facility is located, provided they are at least 18 years old and have stayed for at least 6 months in the area, said the proposal.

Presently, detainees are set to vote on election day as they are not covered by the existing early voting law for government personnel who perform election duties that day, Sarmiento said.

“We will urge Congress to pass the early voting bills to include detainees—Gordon has a bill in the Senate while three congressmen have bills at the House of Representatives. What the Comelec can do is to remind them to focus on this early voting laws—it is up to them now,” he said.

Sarmiento added that the Comelec TWG will hold meetings with BJMP to plan for the off-site registration and voting in coordination with the Commission on Human Rights and Department of Interior and Local Government.

According to February statistics of the Bureau of Jail and Management and Penology (BJMP), detainees comprise about 95 percent of the total 60,000 BJMP jail population, said Bryan Julius Gabriel, chief of policies and doctrine division under BJMP’s directorate for program development.

About 40, 000 to 45,000 BJMP detainees are qualified to register and vote in 2010, while 22,080 are not yet registered and 1,820 have been de-listed for not voting in at least two elections, the BKMP exec noted.

At least 13,126 detainees are registered but cannot vote because have been transferred to another detention facility, Gabriel added.

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