A prisoners’ support group asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend the deadline to the ongoing voters’ registration to allow persons denied of liberty (PDL) to vote in next year’s national and local elections.
With just two weeks before the September 30 deadline, the group Kapatid said an extension shall allow prisoners’ to still “make a difference” through their votes
Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said, “It is important for PDLs, especially those wrongly imprisoned for crimes they did not commit – the Philippines’ political prisoners – to register and have their votes counted in the 2022 elections.”
“Imprisonment does not disenfranchise them of their right to vote and to have a say in the outcome of the upcoming crucial presidential elections,” Lim explained.
Kapatid’s request is the latest in the growing clamor for the Comelec to extend the deadline after a series of recent pandemic lockdowns severely limited the number of registrations the poll body could accept.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez however said the election commissioners are firm in sticking to the deadline as a strict preparation schedule has already been set for next year’s polls.
But Lim said the big number of eligible voters among PDLs may run of time to register or reactivate their registration within the remaining two weeks.
She said their group received reports that voters’ registration forms were being distributed in some jails.
“But as prisons remain in continuing lockdown, the Comelec has to move the deadline of registration and also push voter education to draw in more detainees eligible to vote,” Lim said.
Kapatid said about 74% of the country’s over 200,000 PDLs are still qualified to vote as they are still under trial while an undetermined number of those convicted have their cases under appeal.
“There are over 148,000 votes out there in jail facilities, and count in the votes too of their eligible family members. If they can all cast their ballots in May 2022 and vote for ‘worthy’ candidates, along with their relatives, they can make a difference,” Lim said.
Lim, wife of political prisoner and National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Vicente Ladlad, said next year’s election is crucial as voters, including PDLs, can hold politicians responsible for illegal arrests and murder, accountable for their “crimes against humanity.”
“The elections in 2022 could be a make or break as our country’s fragile institutions take a beating as never before in the hands of a President who pretends to shun the onus of accountability and culpability for his manifold human rights violations,” Lim said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)