May 26, 2024

Persons deprived of liberty (PDL) can exercise their right of suffrage again after the Supreme Court in March 2022, upheld the validity of the Commission on Elections resolution that allows PDLs who have not been convicted, to vote. 

In Baguio, more than 200 PDL who are registered voters of Baguio are eligible to vote in the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) on Oct. 30.

In the meeting of the Joint Security Control Center on Aug. 9 in preparation for the BSKE, City Election Officer John Paul Martin announced the Comelec will set up a polling center at the Baguio City Jail to accommodate PDLs registered in Barangay Azcko (Abanao-Zandueta-Chugum-Otek) only.

Those registered in other barangays, the PDL, through counsel, should file a petition in court signifying intent to vote.

If permitted, the PDL will be escorted by a jail guard to the precinct where he/she is registered and will be allowed to vote using the express lane which has also been designated for use of senior citizens, persons with disability, and heavily pregnant women. 

Registered PDLs who are detained in Baguio but who are not registered in Baguio are considered unregistered, Martin said.

To hasten the setting up of express lanes and the filing of petition, Martin has suggested to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology-Baguio to survey PDLs who are interested to vote and if possible, talk to a lawyer who will prepare a single petition to be submitted in court.

Martin said he will also remind the court about the SC decision.

PDLs eligible to vote are those confined in jail, formally charged for any crime/s and awaiting/undergoing trial; serving a sentence of imprisonment for less than one year; or 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.

PDLs were allowed to vote for the first time in 2010 but in 2012, a petition filed by a certain Atty. Victor Aguinaldo asked the court to declare Comelec Resolution 9371 unconstitutional for violating the equal protection of laws by favoring PDL voters over other classes of voters.

In 2016, the SC issued a temporary restraining order, which prevented PDLs from voting.

In March 2022, the SC dismissed the petition saying it did not meet the requirements for judicial review and Aguinaldo has no personal interest in the case. – Rimaliza A. Opiña