The Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from implementing its order disallowing voters without biometrics.
The magistrates, during their en banc deliberations, issued a temporary restraining order (TRO), directing the commission from deactivating registered voters who did not register their biometric information.
The High Court also ordered the Comelec to explain within 10 days why the petition asking the tribunal to declare the controversial order unconstitutional should not be granted.
The TRO was issued on the basis of the petition filed by Kabataan party-list petition for certiorari and prohibition assailing the “No Bio, No Boto” policy of the Comelec.
The SC decision elated the group.
“We welcome the issuance of a TRO against the ‘No Bio, No Boto’ policy as it is an immediate relief for over three million registered voters who stand to illegally lose their right of suffrage,” Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list said.
“While it is good that the SC has addressed this grave and urgent concern speedily, the youth will remain vigilant and on guard until ‘No Bio, No Boto’ is declared unconstitutional with finality,” Ridon added.
The group said the “No bio, no boto” policy will disenfranchise more than three million registered voters without biometrics in the 2016 national and local elections.
The Kabataan party-list asked the high court to declare provisions of RA 10367 or “An Act Providing for Mandatory Biometrics Voter Registration” null and void.
It also sought the nullification of Comelec Resolution 9721 which lays down the process of deactivating voter registration records in the May 9, 2016 National and Local Elections, as directed by the assailed RA No. 10367.
The petition argued that RA 10367 and its implementing regulations are unconstitutional because they impose an additional substantive requirement on the exercise of suffrage, thus violating Section 1, Article V of the 1987 Constitution.
“The biometrics validation gravely violates due process as it is an unreasonable deprivation of the constitutional right to vote for millions of Filipinos who have failed to register their biometric information despite existing and active registration – in effect a voter’s re-registration – for various reasons whether personal or institutional,” the petitioners said.
They said that figures from the poll body showed that only 3.5 million registered voters underwent mandatory biometrics validation procedure as of September 30, 2015.
The Comelec has admitted that more than three million registered voters remain without biometrics data. The number is equivalent to 5.86 percent of the 52,239,488 registered voters for the 2016 national and local elections.
With NEIL A. ALCOBER