QC inmates register for 2010 polls
Posted September 7, 2009on:
By Anna Valmero
First Posted 16:43:00 09/07/2009
Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) conducted a mobile satellite voter’s registration at the Quezon City Jail to allow
detainees to join the 2010 polls, an official said.
Comelec National Capital Region (NCR) regional director Michael Dioneda said the poll body aims to register at least 300-400 male and female inmates who were residents of Quezon City District 4, the location of the city jail.
“Under the law, detainees who have not been convicted of crime are still presumed innocent and retain their right of suffrage,” Dioneda told INQUIRER.net over the phone.
Dioneda pointed out 80 to 90 percent of the 58,000 inmates nationwide are detainees and retain their right to vote; in Metro Manila alone, about
17,482 of the 18,177 total jail population are detainees while the remaining were sentenced for crimes.
To speed up registration, BJMP issues a court order for a list of detainees who are eligible to vote, which is evaluated by Comelec officials to assess how many inmates are eligible to enlist and assess if voter records of registered inmates are still active.
Voter application forms are given ahead of the registration day, said Dioneda.
In a separate interview, Comelec commissioner Rene Sarmiento said only inmates who were residents of the district where the detention facility is located can register due to the “six-month residency
requirement”in existing election laws.
“Under election laws, a voter should reside in the municipality for six months before the elections. For detainees, his address prior to incarceration is the one recognized by law as his residence or domicile while election officers are mandated to register all
detainees in his respective district,” Sarmiento said.
“Thus, only detainees who reside in the same district where the facility is located can register and
vote,” he added.
“While the scope of the project is still limited, we are glad because this is the first time in Philippine history that detainees can register in detention facilities and vote in the elections. Detainee votes can help dictate local results which by sheer number are won by
a slim margin of 100 or less votes,” Sarmiento said.
Sarmiento cited other legal challenges to detainee voting such as provisions that mandate ballot boxes cannot be moved out of the polling precincts so registered detainees can only vote via escorted
voting, wherein a court order will be served to allow groups of detainees accompanied by BJMP to vote in regular polling precincts on Election Day and return to their facility after.
Alternatives eyed by Comelec include the inclusion of detainees in the local absentee voting law so inmates can vote ahead of Election Day and the security augmentation for “high-risk inmates” who will be
escorted to vote in regular poll precincts and back to their facility.
Sarmiento and Dioneda said detainees welcomed the project because it allows them to participate in the elections and urge elected leaders to hear their plight.