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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Detainees on trial still have right to vote

Detainees on trial still have right to vote

This refers to the news item titled “Ampatuans may vote in Taguig, says Comelec” (Inquirer, 7/21/12), which reported on Commission on Elections’ willingness to allow detainees to vote this coming 2013 elections. We laud Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes’ adherence to the constitutional provision guaranteeing every citizen’s right to suffrage. Indeed, detainees still undergoing trials (meaning, those not yet convicted), like all law-abiding citizens, have the right to participate in elections—the underpinning of democracy.

This constitutional right to vote gives every citizen the opportunity to participate in the process of selecting their public officials and government leaders in a transparent manner. Elections, as a process, strengthen and institutionalize civic participation and strengthen democracy. Thus allowing detainees to cast their votes in effect advances and enhances the democratization process as it includes even those who, for quite a long time, have been considered to be living in the margins of society. After all, modern elections are indispensable to a democracy. Unlike its Grecian and Roman origins, modern elections are open to all, based on the principles of equality and equity, regardless of ideology and political belief, religious conviction, sexual orientation and gender preference, cultural identification or ethnicity. Theoretically, elections are a mechanism for determining the “general will” and establishing the “consent of the governed.

Hence, in what seems to be a positive Comelec response to the request of the Ampatuans and their coaccused to be allowed to vote this coming 2013 elections, we call on the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Justice, and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to enforce the abovementioned Comelec resolution allowing non-convicted detainees to register and cast their votes in the coming elections.

We ask the jail officials to provide the necessary structure and proper venues for the inmates’ registration, voters’ education, voting and vote-counting pursuant to the resolution. And while many of us detainees were content to act as mere “observers” in past elections, we now have an opportunity to actually participate in elections.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a Russian political dissident, said the development of society can be measured by how it treats its prisoners. In treating detainees as members of the country’s body politic, the Filipino nation will show how developed and civilized society it is today.

detainees, Metro Manila District Jail,
Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City

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