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Comelec’s ‘No Bio, No Boto’ questioned before SC

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - November 25, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The new policy of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) requiring voters to register their biometrics before being allowed to vote in next year’s general elections was questioned before the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday.

Youth groups led by Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon asked the high court to stop the implementation of the “No Bio, No Boto” policy, which provides for disenfranchisement of voters without digital photograph, signature and fingerprints in their registration records.

In a 32-page petition, they also asked the SC to nullify the Comelec resolutions issued for implementation of the policy as well as the law on mandatory biometrics voter registration under Republic Act No. 10367.

They argued the new policy violates the Constitution as it adds a substantive requirement for Filipinos to be able to exercise their right to suffrage.

“Republic Act No. 10367 and its implementing regulations are unconstitutional as these impose an unconstitutional, additional substantive requirement imposed on the exercise of suffrage, thus violating Section 1, Article V of the 1987 Constitution,” read the petition.

Petitioners stressed that the Constitution clearly states that “no literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.”

“In contravention of the above-stated constitutional provision, Republic Act No. 10367 and its implementing regulations imposed an additional substantive requirement for all voters, both old and new registrants, to submit for mandatory biometrics validation or risk being deactivated or removed from the precinct book of voters, thus effectively barring them from the exercise of their right to vote,” they pointed out.

Petitioners said the new policy “violates due process as it is an unreasonable deprivation of the constitutional right to vote for millions of Filipinos who have failed to register their biometric information despite existing and active registration – in effect a voter’s re-registration – for various reasons whether personal or institutional.”

Petitioners further argued that over three million voters stand to lose their right to vote because of the new biometrics requirement.

Comelec records showed that a total of 3,059,601 registered voters remained without biometrics data as of last Sept. 30 – or 5.86 percent of the 52,239,488 total registered voters for the 2016 general elections.

“It is thus apparent that over three million registered voters stand to illegally lose their right of suffrage in the May 9, 2016 national and local elections without the benefit of due process due to the implementation of an additional requirement that is patently unconstitutional,” they argued.

“Further egregious is the fact that voters with active records according to Republic Act No. 8189, the antecedent Voters Registration Law of 1996, comprise bulk of those who will be deactivated. The deactivation of registered voters qualified under Republic Act No. 8189 is incompatible with the tenet that laws with penal sanctions should apply prospectively and not retrospectively,” they added.

In filing the petition, Kabataan was joined by National Union of Students of the Philippines, Anakbayan, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students and two voters who stand to be disenfranchised because of the new policy.

Just last month, the same groups also filed a petition before the SC seeking extension of the Oct. 31 deadline for voters’ registration set by the Comelec.

The SC has ordered the poll body to comment on the petition.

ACIRC ARTICLE V COLLEGE EDITORS GUILD OF THE PHILIPPINES COMELEC KABATAAN LEAGUE OF FILIPINO STUDENTS NATIONAL UNION OF STUDENTS OF THE PHILIPPINES NO BIO NO BOTO REPUBLIC ACT NO VOTERS
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