1st in RP: 23,000 inmates to vote in May polls
KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN
For the first time in Philippine history, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said more than 23,000 Filipino inmates will be allowed to vote in the coming May 10 automated elections.
In an interview with GMANews.TV, Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento that a total of 23,657 out of the 54,866 qualified detainees in 414 jails nationwide will cast their votes in May.
“This is a first in our history kung saan ang mga bilanggo ay makakaboto (wherein our detainees will be able to vote),” said Sarmiento, who heads the Comelec Committee on Detainee Registration and Voting.
Sarmiento said qualified detainees include those whose cases are still being heard by the court, those who are serving a sentence of less than one year, and those who have been convicted but are currently on appeal.
Sarmiento said the Philippines will only be the fourth country in the world to allow its detainees to vote in an election. Before the Philippines, only Australia, Great Britain, and Canada gave their detainees the right to vote.
He said that the project was made possible with the efforts of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Bureau of Corrections (BOC), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Preso, Inc.
He said these groups worked hard for the project because the vote of detainees is “significant,” especially in this “close” presidential and vice presidential race.
On election day, Sarmiento said special Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) will create a polling center in detention centers with more than 100 detainees. He said the inmates will be allowed to fill out their ballots in the said polling centers.
“Sila ay pupuntahan ng SBEI (The special BEIs will come to them)… they will be voting right in their detention cells,” he said.
After voting, he said the BEIs will take the ballots to the precincts of the detainees where the ballots will be fed to the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines. The BEIs will be accompanied by poll watchers and security detail from the Philippine National Police.
On the other hand, inmates in detention centers with less than 100 detainees have to be escorted to their respective precincts where they will be able to vote. But Sarmiento noted that these detainees still have to file a petition with the courts for escorted voting.
Metro Manila recorded the highest number of qualified detainee voters with 5,677 while Bicol has the least number with 199. Registration for qualified detainees ran from July to October last year. – RSJ, GMANews.TV