MANILA, Philippines - A total 2,633 detainees whose convictions are pending appeal are being registered as voters at the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) starting Monday.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) kicked off its week-long detainee registration at the NBP on August 6.
The kick-off was attended by Commission on Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, chairman of detainee voting, and Bureau of Corrections Chief Gaudencio Pangilinan.
The poll body previously approved Resolution 9371 on detainee registration, in which BuCor availed of the mechanism for a special polling place inside the prison.
Inmates at the maximum security jail were registered at the social hall of the administration building while those in the medium security compound (MSC) and the reception and diagnostic center were registered at the MSC. The same venues will be polling places on election date.
Comelec personnel trained BuCor personnel to assist in the registration of illiterate voters.
Inmates like wheelchair-bound Jerome, a detainee for one year over an illegal drugs offense, welcomed the development. Jerome was nabbed in a buy-bust operation for marijuana.
Jerome said he is happy for the chance to register, saying he voted in previous elections.
During the press briefing, Sarmiento explained that convicts whose cases are on appeal still enjoy the right to vote till their convictions become final and executory.
He also explained that convicts who are released after their convictions are overturned may change their place of registration from the NBP to their place of residence until the time Comelec finalizes the list of voters.
Sarmiento said once the voters’ list is final, convicts subsequently released after an acquittal will have to vote at the NBP.
There were 17,000 detainees who registered as voters in the 2010 elections.
There are about 20,000 inmates at the NBP. The BuCor controls 7 penal farms and colonies nationwide.
Sarmiento explained that the substantial number of inmates who can vote may spell the difference in elections at the local level where races tend to be close.
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, for his part, showed up uninvited during the registration to check if there is a need for any legislation for any problems that may come up.
Biazon wants the Comelec to coordinate closely with the DOJ in case the convictions of the inmates become final just days before the elections.
Meanwhile, Biazon could not yet say if he or his son, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon will run for the Senate next year. He said the decision is up to the Liberal Party, of which both Biazons are members.