SAYS COMELEC About 50,000 detainees to vote in 2010 polls
Posted August 12, 2009on:
About 50,000 detainees to vote in 2010 polls
By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net First Posted 15:52:00 08/12/2009 Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Human Rights, Crime and Law and Justice
MANILA, Philippines—About 50,000 detainees nationwide will vote in the 2010 national and local elections, said an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
At least 80 percent of the 58,783 population in Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facilities nationwide are eligible to register and vote in next year’s national and local polls, said Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.
”Detainees who are not convicted of any crime are still presumed innocent of their accusations and retain their right of suffrage,” Sarmiento told INQUIRER.net.
Citing BJMP data, he said a total of 46,107 detainees can participate in the 2010 elections.
Recognizing their right, Comelec has launched its first voters’ registration for detainees in their respective facilities nationwide and this will go on until the last day of
voters’ registration on October 31, Sarmiento said.
“By the numbers, detainee votes are crucial to make a local candidate win because every single vote counts in local polls wherein a candidate usually wins by a slim margin of 20 or 50 votes. We hope aspiring candidates would campaign among detainees and listen to their issues,” he said.
Comelec, together with BJMP, has started in mid-July its nationwide mobile satellite voter’s registration for detainees, including the 22,581 who have not yet registered and 1,933 who were de-listed after failing to vote in the past two elections.
The detainee registration and voting project will only cover detainees who are residents of the municipality where they are incarcerated because the law requires a six-month residency for a person to vote in a municipality.
This means that about 14, 364 detainees still cannot vote in 2010 as they are detained in a facility located outside of, or far from, the district of their voting precinct, said Sarmiento.
After the detainee voting in 2010, BJMP chief General Rosendo Dial, said the Comelec will push for expanding the scope of detainee voting to cover all who are eligible to vote by lobbying in Congress that detainees be included in the local absentee voting law.
For detainee registration, Comelec election officers set up mobile satellite registration within the BJMP camp facilities with about 200 detainees who are eligible to register for the 2010 polls; for those facilities with below 200 detainees, an off-site registration is
implemented, by which detainees are escorted by BJMP to regular polling precincts to process applications until the registration deadline on October 31.
There will be escorted voting for detainees in the 2010 polls, wherein registered detainees must obtain a court order so they may be allowed to cast ballots on Election Day in the precincts where they are registered while being escorted by a BJMP personnel.
In another interview, BJMP-Metro Manila regional director Serafin Barreto said BJMP, which presently has an actual force of 7,414, can provide the security arrangements for both escorted detainee registration and voting.
Dial added that the Philippine National Police can be tapped to augment the force for road security when detainees are escorted from their facilities to polling precincts and back.
Manila City Jail detainee Elias Gonzales, 41, lauded the detainee voting project and hoped this will allow him and fellow inmates to participate and choose the next local officials for their municipality and voice their plight in detainee facilities to candidates.
Distribution per region of detainees who can vote in 2010 are as follows: Ilocos Region, 1,416; Cagayan Valley, 855; Central Luzon, 3,345; Calabarzon, 6,167; Mimaropa, 537; Bicol Region, 1,013; Western Visayas, 537; Central Visayas, 4,645; Eastern Visayas, 1,107; Zamboanga Peninsula, 2,482; Northern Mindanao, 2,087; Davao Region, 1,627; Soccsksargen, 1,326; Caraga, 541; Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 248; National Capital Region, 16, 872; and Cordillera Administrative Region, 570.