MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections has granted the petition of journalists to allow members of the media to vote early in the 2013 elections.
In an en banc resolution penned by Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, the Comelec voted 5-1 to grant the petition filed by Noel Alamar, Ariel Ayala, Leslie Ann Aquino, Gerard Anthony Nuval, Sheila Crisostomo and Jennifer Mangondo as represented by election lawyer Romulo Macalintal.
Comelec said there are at least 213, 900 mediamen in 800 printed publications, 297 television stations, 659 FM radio stations and 383 AM radio stations who should not be deprived of their right to vote. The resolution noted these mediamen are on duty covering the news on Election Day.
The commission drew its authority to allow early voting for media from Resolution 8811 issued March 30, 2011 to implement the right to vote of persons deprived of their liberty such as detainees and prisoners, who like media, cannot go to polling precincts on election day.
The resolution noted that this is not an amendment to the Absentee Voting Law, but an implementation of the constitutional provision on the right to vote.
The resolution will allow mediamen to vote in the same schedule as those availing of absentee voting.
It also noted that a Senate bill on early voting for the media remains pending even as Congress is about to go on recess.
It also pointed out that the relevant laws did not bar mediamen from voting early.
The resolution notes that early voting is allowed in other countries without prejudice to the right of mediamen to still vote on Election Day like Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
The Comelec directed the committee on local absentee voting to work on the implementing rules and regulations.
Prior to this resolution, local absentee voting only allowed soldiers, policemen and government officials and employees on duty on Election Day.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes had his own separate opinion where he stated that he voted with the majority with reservations. Brillantes said he voted with the majority as an enabling law may not be passed in time.
Lone dissenter Christian Robert Lim, however, said the Comelec has no authority to grant the petition since it can only be granted by congress.
He also said Resolution 8811 does not grant early voting for detainees, but just the place where detainees may vote.
Speaking to media after the promulgation, Brillantes said he agreed with Lim’s point. He said he expected the media to be happy with the decision.
The Comelec chief said he hopes to implement the absentee voting for journalists in the 2013 elections. Brillantes said this can be easily implemented.
He, however, clarified that early voting for media will be manual like the local absentee voting and not automated. Brillantes said the votes will be counted on Election Day.
Brillantes said they will most likely designate a place where mediamen can go, like the Comelec national office. He said mediamen will be registered to distinguish legitimate members of the media.
Macalintal thanked the Comelec for the resolution as he called on mediamen to register as voters.
He said some 300,000-400,000 medieman stand to benefit from the Comelec resolution as it will include production people and drivers. He said the Comelec decision is historic since this is the first time mediamen will be allowed to vote early.
He said he hopes Congress will still pass an enabling law.
New Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca also welcomed the resolution, noting that when she was a station manager herself, she would face problems with the deployment of reporters who want to vote but also still had to go on coverage.