Expressing alarm that at least three million qualified voters face the prospect of not being able to vote in next year’s presidential elections should they fail to have their biometrics captured by the end of this month, vice presidential frontrunner Senator Francis Escudero called on voters in the country to validate their registration and asked their supporters to help boost the Commission on Elections’ information drive.
Escudero said that the call for voters to have their biometrics captured is consistent with the platform of independent presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe, “Walang Maiiwan” (No One Left Behind), which is anchored on the principle of inclusiveness.
“We are running under a platform of inclusiveness. Yet at least three million qualified voters will be left behind and will not be able to vote in 2016 if we will not help Comelec. I encourage all our supporters to convince their friends and relatives to check their registration records and have their biometrics taken before the deadline,” Escudero said.
Pursuant to Republic Act 10367, registered voters whose biometrics (photograph, fingerprint and signature) have not been captured must submit themselves for validation before the city or municipal election officer. Voters who fail to submit for validation before the deadline shall be deactivated and shall not be able to vote in May 2016.
Comelec has set the deadline for validation on Oct. 31 of this year. It launched the “No Bio, No Boto” campaign early this year and scheduled satellite registrations in malls and barangay halls to make the voter registration and validation procedures accessible.
Escudero reminded voters of how precious the right to vote is, quoting the US Supreme Court decision Wesberry v. Sanders, which states that “no right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make our laws, under which, as good citizens, we must live.”
“To paraphrase Retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno,” said Escudero, “the polls are the great equalizer because all of us, regardless of our status or background, have one vote, and it is our responsibility to use the elections as our opportunity to get our voices heard.”
According to Escudero, the respected jurist was also right in pointing out that “who you put in Malacañang or in Congress will determine how much taxes you pay, where your taxes will go, and whether the rights you enjoy today will still be yours tomorrow.”
While acknowledging the efforts of the Comelec, the Bicolano senator said that the ramifications of the potential disenfranchisement of 3 million voters are worrisome.
As of last month, a total of 369,865 registered voters have no biometrics in Metro Manila while Cavite, Rizal and Nueva Ecija each have more 100,000 registered voters with no biometrics data. Meanwhile, around 18% of registered voters in Cotabato City and Kalinga province have yet to update their voter’s data with biometrics.
Despite the staggering number of voters without biometrics, Comelec Chairman Andres G. Bautista earlier said that the poll body is not keen on extending the October 31 deadline .