MANILA, Philippines - Registered voters with no biometrics registration such as electronically captured photos, signatures and fingerprints may still be able to vote in the 2013 elections after all.
Senate Electoral Reforms Committee Chair Aquilino Koko Pimentel on Wednesday clarified that the newly approved bill for mandatory biometrics registration for voters will be made effective for the 2016 elections.
Pimentel told ABS-CBN that the Senate version of the bill which was approved on third and final reading Monday deleted previous provisions making it effective for the 2013 elections. The House of Representatives passed its version, authored by Rep. Susan Yap, back in May 2011.
Both bills will now go through the Bicameral Conference Committee where its clashing provisions, including the implementation date, can be reconciled.
“Hindi na puede magkaroon ng deactivation ngayon kasi tapos na period ng activation/registration. Hence yang interpretation ninyo sa bill ay hindi tama. That would never be the intent of the bill to disenfranchise voters. Pang 2016 elections na yan. Senate bill deleted reference to 2013 elections. I will double check pero 2016 na ito magiging relevant although if approved in 2013 the law becomes effective in 2013 but provisions will be carried out After the 2013 elections because period for activation/ registration which is also provided by law has ended," he said.
"Gamitan lang ng kaunting logic and reasonableness in the interpretation. Of course bicam is one more chance to fix the bill. Thank you for calling our attention. Kaya nga when you read the House version don’t assume that’s also the senate version. I have always said that biometrics will come into play in the 2016 elections even if we pass the law in 2013. Si chair naman siguro read the House version," he added.
Pimentel said that there should be no drastic changes in election laws this close to an election. “We do not want to unsettle what is already settled. So even who are qualified to vote will and should not be drastically changed. Of course bicam will be our last avenue to assuage the voters fears," he said.
On Tuesday, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said those who failed to have their biometrics registered by the last day of registration last October 31, 2012 will be disenfranchised with the approval of the law.
"Kung inapprove nila ngayon, tapos na registration, sila madidisenfranchise," Brillantes said.
Brillantes could not yet give the exact number of those without biometrics. As of October 12, there were 8 million registered voters with no biometrics.
It is possible that those without biometrics registration gave their biometrics before the October 31 deadline.
The continuing registration of voters ended October 31. the poll body is now in the process of validating the registration of those who beat the deadline to register.
Before the enactment of the bill, only those registering for the 1st time, those transferring their registration and those who are reactivating their deactivated registrations were subjected to mandatory biometrics registration.
Brillantes explained that previously, those with active registration were still allowed to vote even without biometrics capture.
Brillantes said there was a large turn out of registrants towards the tail end of the continuing registration.
Brillantes said though that implementing the law in time for the 2013 elections would be unfair. “Kung nilabas 2-3 months ago that would compel everyone to go into biometrics."
Brillantes said the only recourse is to reopen voter registration which he said the poll body is not inclined to do unless ordered by the Supreme Court.
“Parang niretroactive di mo na papayagan bumoto yes if effective 2013 unless ireopen nila for registration hindi na. Suggestion ko sa 2016 na iapply," he said.
Local election boards are now going through the applications of those who registered before the deadline, after which the data will go through the automated fingerprint identification system to weed out multiple registrants.
Biometrics are meant to identify and weed out multiple registrants and flying voters through the automated fingerprint identification system.