MARKING a new chapter in the exercise of the Filipinos’ right to suffrage, Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos on Monday oversaw the historic casting of votes of 303 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) at the Manila City Jail for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) 2023.
The exercise gave the chance to inmates who were still awaiting for the resolution of their cases to vote for the first time in barangay elections.
“Makasaysayan ito dahil ngayon lamang sila magpa-participate sa BSKE. It is very, very historic in that sense,” Abalos said.
“Ito’y dahil sa Supreme Court decision noong August 26, 2022 na sinasabi na unless convicted by final judgment, all PDLs have their constitutional right to vote. Unless masentensyahan ka, nirerekognisa ang karapatan mong bumoto,” Abalos explained.
On August 26, 2022, the Supreme Court lifted the temporary restraining order (TRO) on Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Resolution No. 9371 which allowed qualified PDLs to vote during elections.
A tripartite memorandum of agreement then ensued among the BJMP, COMELEC and Public Attorneys Office (PAO) to ensure an orderly election process for PDLs.
For this year’s BSKE, some 26,223 PDLs will vote inside the 418 participating Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) jails nationwide through special polling precincts (SPPs).
Meanwhile, 1,600 will vote outside jail premises through escorted voting.
Abalos likewise reported that seven detainees are candidates running in the barangay elections, with five running for Kagawad while two for Barangay Chairperson.
“Hindi lamang karapatan ng ating mga kapatid na bumoto sa piitan ngayon. Ang karapatan ding tumakbo at be elected ay atin ding ginagalang.”
“Ito’y pinaghandaan at ako’y nagpapasalamat sa magandang administrasyon, sa BJMP, at sa lahat ng team. Sa PNP, COMELEC, DILG, PAO. Lahat talaga nagtulungan po dito,” he said.
According to Section 490, Chapter IX of COMELEC Resolution No. 10924 issued on June 7, 2023, eligible PDLs may vote either through a special polling place established inside a jail facility or detention center or escorted voting in a regular polling place.
Qualified PDL voters are: those who are confined in jail, formally charged for any crime/s and awaiting/undergoing trial; serving a sentence of imprisonment for less than one year.
Also allowed are detainees whose conviction of a crime involving disloyalty to the duly constituted government such as rebellion, sedition, violation of the firearms laws or any crime against national security or for any other crime is on appeal.