Court Battle Continues Over Biometric Voting in Philippines

Court Battle Continues Over Biometric Voting in PhilippinesThe battle over biometric polling continues to play out in the Philippines’ Supreme Court as civil organizations led by the Kabataan Party-list argue vehemently against the Commission on Elections’s (Comelec) “no bio, no boto” policy. The complainants have filed a new petition urging the Supreme Court to uphold its temporary restraining order (TRO) on Comelec’s move to de-register those who didn’t submit their biometric data from its voter list.

It’s a complicated situation. The registration period for voter biometrics was open for 17 months and Comelec campaigned extensively to encourage voters to enroll, but ultimately the Commission’s centers were overwhelmed with a surge of registrants just before the October 31st deadline. In the end, 2.5 million voters were left unregistered, and according to Comelec’s rules those voters now must be disenfranchised. But the Surpreme Court issued its TRO on that process in response to protests from youth groups led by the Kabataan Party-list; and while it recently denied a request to extend the enrollment deadline, it will still consider another petition against the constitutionality of the biometric requirement itself.

Now, Comelec Chair Andres Bautista says that the TRO is putting into jeopardy preparations for the May 9th election as the protesters continue to argue against the biometric policy. In their latest filings, the protesters point out that Comelec announced in November it would not employ an electronic voter verification system in the elections but would instead use hard copies of voter lists, which they argue will render the biometric system redundant. The protesters also argue that the Philippines’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights will require it not to restrict the 2.5 million unregistered voters’ right to suffrage.

It isn’t clear how the Supreme Court will rule on this issue, but with 2.5 million voters’ rights at stake, many will be watching to find out.

Source: The Manila Times