SC rules: No biometrics, no vote
(The Freeman) - December 16, 2015 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Close to three million registered voters without biometrics will not be allowed to vote next year after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ‘’No Bio, No Boto’’ policy.

In a ruling Tuesday, the court also dissolved the temporary restraining order against the policy.

The Supreme Court’s 15 magistrates voted unanimously to junk the 32-page petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by Kabataan party-list due to lack of merit.

The party-list has argued that the biometrics validation and deactivation under Republic Act 10367 or “An Act Providing for Mandatory Biometrics Voter Registration” violates the Constitution for limiting the democratic right to suffrage.

Under Republic Act 10367, voters who fail to submit the biometrics data will be deactivated from the voters’ list. This prompted the party-list to file the petition and claim that the policy would disenfranchise millions of registered voters without biometrics.

“Biometrics validation gravely violates constitutional due process, applying the strict scrutiny test, as it is not poised as a compelling reason for state regulation and is an unreasonable deprivation of the right to suffrage,” the group’s petition read.

In a report by ABS-CBN, the high court ruled that the law cannot be struck down as unconstitutional “unless a registration requirement pertains to literacy, property or any other substantive matter,” adding that it found sufficient basis in the policy’s objection.

The policy was aimed at cleansing the voters’ list, which the Court upheld.

The court said the objective of cleansing the national voter registry to eliminate electoral fraud and ensure that election results “are reflective of the will of the electorate constitute a compelling state interest.”

“The regulation was narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling state interest of establishing a clean, complete, permanent and updated list of voters, and was demonstrably the least restrictive means to promote the interest,” the SC was quoted as saying.

Kabataan Party-list is set to file a motion for reconsideration.

Meanwhile, lawyer Lionel Marco Castillano, Comelec-Cebu election supervisor, welcomed the SC decision because it will allow the Comelec to continue its preparations for the 2016 elections.

“Maayo kaayo ang decision kay we are already done with the clustering and deactivated those without biometrics,” he told The FREEMAN.

He added that their move to reduce the number of voters per precinct from the current 1,000 voters to 800 would be materialized. The reduction came after Comelec learned from problems faced during the 2010 and 2013 elections when only an average of 80 percent of the voters per precinct cast their votes.

The Comelec earlier feared that it might go back to square one in the clustering of precincts if those who were deactivated for having no biometrics data would be allowed to vote.

As of October 31, Cebu recorded a total of 2.6 million voters registered voters, a total of 74, 110, or 2. 76 percent of whom failed to submit their biometrics data.

 As of December 4, the province had a total of 3, 019 clustered precincts for the 2016 elections. — /JMO (FREEMAN)

ACIRC AN ACT PROVIDING AS OF DECEMBER AS OF OCTOBER BIOMETRICS COMELEC KABATAAN PARTY LIONEL MARCO CASTILLANO NBSP SUPREME COURT VOTERS
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