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SC suspends ‘no bio, no boto’

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s “No Bio, No Boto” rule requiring voters to have their biometrics data taken before they would be allowed to vote in the May 2016 general elections.

In full session, justices of the high court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the poll body from implementing the new policy, which deactivates registered voters without digital photograph, signature and fingerprints in their registration records, SC spokesman Theodore Te said.

The SC acted on a petition filed by several groups, led by Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, last week.

It ordered the Comelec and the Office of the Solicitor General to answer the petition and submit their comment within 10 days.

Should the high tribunal grant the petition, over three million voters who have no biometrics will be allowed to vote in next year’s polls.

The petitioners asked the SC to nullify the Comelec resolutions issued for the implementation of the No Bio, No Boto policy as well as Republic Act 10367, the law on mandatory biometrics voter registration.

In a nutshell, they argued that the rule violates the Constitution as it adds a substantive requirement for Filipinos to be able to exercise their right to vote.

They said the Comelec policy “violates due process as it is a deprivation of the constitutional right to vote for millions of Filipinos who have failed to register their biometric information despite existing registration.”

The petitioners further argued that over three million voters stand to lose their right of suffrage because of the new biometrics requirement.

Comelec records showed that a total of 3,059,601 registered voters have no biometrics or 5.86 percent of the 52,239,488 total registered voters for the 2016 elections.

The party-list group was joined in the petition by leaders of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, Anakbayan, College Editors Guild of the

Philippines, League of Filipino Students and two voters facing disenfranchisement because of the new policy.

Last month, the groups filed a petition before the SC seeking extension of the Oct. 31 deadline for voters’ registration.

Flying voters, long lines

The TRO issued by the high court on the biometrics policy may lead to more flying voters and longer queuing at polling precincts in the 2016 elections, according to the Comelec.

“It will affect the preparations for next year’s elections as it may result in the Comelec having to adjust the project of precincts (POP) by about 2.5 million voters,” James Jimenez, spokesman for the Comelec, said.

POP is the Comelec’s guide to determine how many voters will be assigned per polling precinct. – With Sheila Crisostomo

ACIRC COLLEGE EDITORS GUILD COMELEC COMELEC AND THE OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL JAMES JIMENEZ LEAGUE OF FILIPINO STUDENTS NATIONAL UNION OF STUDENTS OF THE PHILIPPINES NO BIO NO BOTO REPUBLIC ACT VOTERS
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