Youth and students groups on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to nullify the “No Bio, No Boto” campaign of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), saying it would deprive more than three million voters of their right to vote in next year’s elections.
The petitioners led by Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon argued that the biometrics validation and deactivation provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10367 or the Mandatory Biometrics Voter Registration Law are an “unconstitutional substantial requirement imposed on the exercise of suffrage.”
“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,” a portion of the 32-page petition read.
The other petitioners are: Kabataan party-list president Marjohara Tucay; Sarah Elago, president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP); Vencer Crisostomo, chairman of Anakbayan; Marc Lino Abila, national president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP); Einstein Recedes, deputy secretary-general of Anakbayan; Charisse Bañez, chairman of the League of Filipino Students (LFS); Arlene Clarisse Julve; and Sining Marfori.
The petitioners said the law contravenes Section 1, Article V of the 1987 Constitution, which states, “No literacy, property or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.”
“In contravention of the above-stated constitutional provision, [RA] 10367 and its implementing regulations imposed an additional substantive requirement for all voters, both old and new registrants, to submit to mandatory biometrics validation or risk being deactivated or removed precinct book of voters, thus effectively barring them from the exercise of their right to vote,” they argued
“Further egregious is the fact that voters with active records according to [RA] 8189, the antecedent Voters Registration Law of 1996, comprise bulk of those who will be deactivated. The deactivation of registered voters qualified under [RA] 8189 is incompatible with the tenet that laws with penal sanctions should apply prospectively, not retrospectively,” the petitioners said.
Kabataan party-list also sought the nullification of Comelec Resolution 9721 dated June 26, 2013, Resolution 9863 dated April 1, 2014 and Resolution 10013, all related to the deactivation of voter registration records in next year’s elections.
The group said only 3,599,906 registered voters have undergone biometrics procedure as of September 30, despite Comelec’s “No Bio, No Boto” campaign.
“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,” the petition read.
‘It’s in the law’
The Comelec and the group Young Public Servants criticized the filing of the petition.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the “No Bio, No Boto” policy was mandated by a law promulgated on June 26, 2013.
“It’s a law. It’s a Republic Act. I guess if there’s really something wrong with the law, then it’s the law that should be struck down,” he noted in a forum in Makati City on Wednesday.
“Come on, we started with nine million people without biometrics in May and now we’re down to, I think, less than a million. What’s wrong with that? Why would you want to strike that down?” Jimenez said.
He assured that the Comelec did not add or take away anything from RA 10367 and if the petitioners have a problem with the policy, then they should go to Congress, which passed the law.
Jimenez said the public was given ample time to register or reactivate their registration record if they failed to vote twice.
Richard Amazona, program officer of Young Public Servants, echoed Jimenez’s sentiment, believing that “the Comelec is doing its best to really implement what is given in the law.”
Amazona pointed out, “The question is always ‘Bakit ka kasi late magpa-register [Why are you late in registering]?’”