The Philippines’ Supreme Court has sided with the country’s Commission on Elections (“Comelec”) in the tense court battle over biometric voter authentication. The court has dismissed the protestations of the Kabataan-Party list and its allies and revoked its temporary restraining order against Comelec’s efforts to de-register the eligible voters who did not submit their biometric information in time.
The registration period for voters to enrol their biometric data closed on October 31st amid overwhelming lines of would-be registrants, leaving about 2.5 million voters unregistered and therefore unable to vote in next year’s national election. In response, the Kabataan Party-list and its youth group allies petitioned the Supreme Court to render the biometric requirement invalid, arguing that it went against constitutional suffrage rights, and that moreover the requirement was redundant since, it claimed, Comelec would be relying on traditional voter lists for identity verification in the election itself.
The latter concern was not addressed in the Supreme Court’s ruling, which focused instead on the legitimacy of the biometric requirement. The SC determined that biometric enrolment is part of the registration process, and not a qualification to vote in and of itself, and therefore does not violate voter rights.
In the aftermath of the ruling, a House of Representatives leader urged Comelec to give voters just one more day to register their biometrics. Given that Comelec’s registration window had been open for several months, but that the Commission has also faced an uproar over its handling of the matter, it’s unclear how it will proceed with respect to that request.