First Time Voters Network Petition to Commission on Elections

23 09 2008

23 September 2008

The Honorable Commissioners of the

Commission on Elections

Through: Hon. Jose A.R. Melo

Chairman

Re:  Urgent proposals for youth voters’ registration

Honorable Commissioners:

The First Time Voters (FTV, for brevity) Project is a conglomeration of youth and student organizations with the common goal of appraising the political participation and consciousness of first time voters through voters’ education. Since its inception, it has initiated campaigns and activities in line with this thrust.

The organization, among others, upholds the right of the people to register as a precondition to the exercise of the constitutional right to suffrage. Being the initial step in the exercise thereof, adequate information on the process of registration should be made accessible to the public. Also, the process itself shall be made convenient so as to attract participation from a wider base. However in past elections, there were not a few reported cases of disenfranchisement of youth and first time voters because of the limitations in the past registration processes.

According to the NSO 2000 Census-based Populations Projection, there will be 33.4 million voters in 2010; 6 million of which are first time voters. In the face of the National Elections in 2010, we anticipate that more youth would be able to participate if the proper bodies would put premium to the issues of information dissemination or lack thereof and accessibility to the registration process itself.

It is in this context that we, in the FTV Project propose to bolster the accessibility of the 2010 national elections through the utilization of schools in the information campaign, expansion of the availability of registration materials, and the setting up of satellite registration centers. We elaborate on these points as follows:

    1. COMELEC to utilize schools in information campaign

The age range of first time voters for 2010 is 16 to 20 years old. Those belonging to this age group spend most of their time in their respective schools, thus their maximum exposure therein. It is in this belief that the FTV moves to channel information drive through these establishments. This will be done through directives from government bodies such as the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education. Flowcharts of the registration process and related materials shall be provided to the schools for the perusal of their students.

    1. COMELEC to expand the availability of registration materials

The COMELEC, as the chief implementing arm of election laws, should be at the forefront of promoting the exercise of the right of suffrage as incumbent on all Filipino citizens. We propose that registration forms should be made available thru avenues that are easily accessed by the youth such as schools and community centers. Also, the COMELEC should make available downloadable registration forms via the internet through the COMELEC website or other related links.

    1. Set up satellite registration centers or field mobile registration units.

It is a declared State policy to systematize the present method of registration in order to establish among others, a clean and updated list of voters (Sec. 2 R.A. No. 8189 “The Voters’ Registration Act of 1996). In order to attain this, a mechanism should be devised in order to allow a maximum number of voters to be able to register. A number of youth are not able to register because they are not based in their places of domicile on account of studies or employment.

This is a reality that prompts the FTV to propose the establishment of satellite registration centers in schools, community centers, and other accessible areas. For areas where a satellite center is not feasible, mobile registration units may be fielded accompanied by accredited COMELEC officials. Given that the COMELEC has already started with the computerization of registration, transfer of information from one COMELEC access point to another would entail minimal cost. In return, enfranchisement of youth voters will be upheld.

    1. Assign additional special registration days

Students, who comprise the majority of first time voters are prevented from registering by their being away from their places of residence on account of their studies.  Young professionals likewise are hindered by their location of employment or by the fact that registration is conducted during office hours.  It is in this line that FTV proposes the assignment of additional special registration days every first Saturday of the month.  With this move, COMELEC will further assure the enfranchisement of youth voters.

The upcoming 2010 National Elections presents our country with another pivotal point in our conflict-ridden history. The next set of national leaders would greatly determine the course of our economy, our politics, and our morality in these hard times. It becomes imperative therefore for the COMELEC to take proactive and essential steps to promote youth enfranchisement in our electoral process. The COMELEC should help to create the enabling conditions for the effective and informed exercise by the youth of their sovereign right to vote. We submit that the above propositions are but reasonable measures that in the end would empower the youth today.

In return, FTV in alliance with Task Force 2010  (TF2010) and YouthVotePhilippines commits to assist and facilitate youth participation to help COMELEC achieve these proposals.

      1. Youth councils and organizations in FTV, TF2010 and YouthVotePhilippines network schools will provide volunteers to do the information drive, organize fora or symposia on election processes.  The youth volunteers will likewise help make the information campaign friendly and appropriate to youth voters.
      2. The aformentioned member networks of FTV will place links on their websites, blogs and social networking sites to the uploaded registration form that COMELEC will make available. Distribution of the actual registration forms can be done by FTV and its networks in the schools where they are based. These efforts will broaden the access of Youth Voters and shorten the time it will take for the actual registration process.
      3. In areas where FTV and its networks have strong and responsive first time voters, it will facilitate and invite the mobile registration units and help provide volunteers.  The visit of these mobile registration units can be further enhanced by complementary information campaigns and voters education events.
      4. FTV and its networks will actively enjoin young professionals and students in a creative and youthful campaign to maximize the opportunities given by additional registration days.

Sincerely,

Paula Bianca Lapuz

Convenor

First Time Voters Network





CHR chair bats for reforms vs voter disenfranchisement

18 09 2008

Written by Purple Romero

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Leila De Lima has called for a rights-based approach to voting in the 2010 elections to prevent vulnerable, marginalized sectors and first-time voters from being disenfranchised.

De Lima said 73 percent or 32 million of the 45 million registered voters participated in the 2007 local elections. Many of the 27% or 12 million who didn’t vote include first-time voters plus those from marginalized and vulnerable sectors of society.

De Lima said first-time voters may be shut out from the elections due to inadequate mechanisms that secure efficient compliance with voter registration.

She cited the case of Akbayan-Youth vs. Comelec in 2001, where the Supreme Court denied Akbayan-Youth’s petition for the extension of voter registration due to the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) procedural limitations.

In its petition, Akbayan-Youth asked for a special two-day registration in February 2001 after around four million young Filipinos failed to meet the December 2000 deadline for voter registration.

The COMELEC junked the request, citing its rule against the holding of registration 120 days before regular elections are to be conducted.

Untapped votes

Aside from the first-time voters, De Lima identified the following as vulnerable voter groups:

  • internally displaced;
  • indigenous communities;
  • detainees;
  • differently-abled; and,
  • elderly.

The internally-displaced are often victims of hostilities between government forces and rebel groups in Mindanao, particularly in the provinces of North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

She stated that in these areas, only around 67 percent of the registered voters were able to participate in the elections.

Indigenous communities also comprise a huge base of untapped voters.

Figures from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples showed that Filipinos from tribal communities number from 6 million-12 million, or about 10-15 percent of the national population. De Lima did not give an estimate how many of these indigenous peoples are entitled to vote.

The same goes for the elderly. De Lima said that the senior population, or those aged 60 and above, totals 4.6 million. While around 7 percent of them suffer from disabilities such as poor vision and even blindness, more than 57 percent are still actively part of the workforce.

She said that slow justice also hampers a citizen’s right to vote, as 95 percent of those in prison have not been sentenced. If found innocent, detainees could be immediately freed and accorded the opportunity to register and participate again in the elections.

In the case of the handicapped, De Lima slammed the lack of facilities that could help them cast their vote. She said that the disabled are even assigned to third-floor precincts. She said that policy failure has prevented the establishment of convenient areas for handicapped voters.

Rights-centered strategy

De Lima said that a rights-based approach could give vulnerable groups access to the elections.

She stressed that a rights-based approach encourages “heightened accountability in the identification of claimholders, or the public, and their entitlements, and duty-holders or the government officials, and their obligations.”

It also empowers voters and supports a paradigm-shift in election participation.

De Lima said that public officials and election authorities should strive for a more “free and meaningful participation, not mere formal or ceremonial contacts with beneficiaries.”  (abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak)

http://newsbreak.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5353&Itemid=88889384