Saturday, March 13, 2010

For 1st time, detainees will be allowed to vote

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:56:00

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Politics, Prison, Elections

Original Story:

MANILA, Philippines--For the first time since elections have been held in the country, detainees will be allowed to exercise their right of suffrage in the May polls.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), saying that it was high time the disenfranchisement of detainees ended, will run a pilot program with the Commission on Human Rights in this year’s elections for the enfranchisement of 24,000 detainees.

“Unlike Canada, Australia and other leading democracies in the world, the country to date has no law specifically governing the exercise of detainees’/prisoners’ right to vote, which, according to our Constitution and our laws, is retained despite their incarceration,” the Comelec en banc said in a Feb. 23 resolution.

Under the law, detainees, or those being held while undergoing trial but not yet convicted of any crime, retain their civil and political rights, including the right to vote.

In past elections, however, they could not exercise this right because the law does not provide for a mechanism that would enable them to vote where they are detained or allow them to leave the jail temporarily to vote.

“The disenfranchisement definitely runs counter to the purpose of elections as it will silence the voice of certain people who are not otherwise disqualified to vote,” the Comelec noted in its resolution.

To do this, the Comelec had to skirt a provision of the election law banning the setting up of polling places inside a jail.

To adhere to the strict interpretation of the law would mean the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, the Comelec said.

According to Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, who led the move to create a mechanism that would allow detainees to vote, special polling precincts will be set up in detention facilities to be manned by special board of election inspectors (BEI).

Under the Comelec resolution, Precinct Count Optical Scan machines will be placed in populated jails, the exact number of which still has to be determined.

It said special BEIs would be established in jails where there are at least 100 voters. They will take the precinct-specific ballots to the detainees and conduct the voting inside the jail compounds. They will transmit the results from the polling places to the servers at the end of voting.

In the case of jails with less than 100 inmates, detainees will have to be escorted by jail personnel to their polling precincts.

The poll body is authorizing personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and Bureau of Corrections assigned to escort the detainees to carry their firearms inside the polling places. Kristine L. Alave

Original Story:

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