NO AMOUNT of bars can hinder a person’s constitutional right to vote.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (CBCP-ECPPC) urged Filipino detainees in a meeting last Jan. 14 to affirm their right to suffrage enshrined in the Constitution.

CBCP-ECPPC Executive Director Rodolfo Diamante said the commission had been lobbying the government for detainee voting for years, as prisoners were not allowed to vote until the 2010 national elections. This led to the relaunching of the Inter-Agency Committee on Detainee Voting.

“At least they were successful in providing a mechanism para [sa detainee voting],” Diamante told the Varsitarian. “Ngayon, kung merong question on that, tututukan pa rin natin. We will fight at least na ‘yung karapatan nila ay ma-recognize.”

Election Commissioner Luie Tito Guia said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was able to muster nearly half of the country’s estimated 101,000 detainees to register and vote.

“I cannot overemphasize the value of giving them the right to suffrage [kasi] dati wala,” Guia said in an interview with the Varsitarian. He vowed to address problems such as lack of information and the late delivery of election forms.

Paulino Moreno Jr., Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) chief legal service officer, said the bureau had ironed out details on the “special” voting for prisoners.

The Comelec leads the interagency committee on detainee voting, which includes the CBCP-ECPPC, BJMP, Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, Department of Justice, Bureau of Corrections, and the Comelec Election and Barangay Affairs Department.

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Data obtained by the Varsitarian showed that 40,248 prisoners voted in the 2013 senatorial elections. The Comelec has registered 67,511 detainees for the May 9, 2016 polls. They will vote at designated “special” precincts. Jerome P. Villanueva

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