Early voting for media members in 2013 pollsBy Jocelyn R. Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
For the time in history, over 200,000 members of the media in the country will be able to cast their votes early in the upcoming 2013 elections.
Voting 5-1, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday granted a petition filed by media practitioners to accord them the same voting privileges enjoyed by soldiers, policemen and other government officers and employees performing election duties under the local absentee voting.
The petition, filed by election lawyer Romulo Macalintal in behalf of journalists and broadcasters, underscored that disenfranchisement among media members was a recurring problem since majority of them were being assigned to areas where they are not registered voters on the day of the election.
Macalintal said that by granting the petition, more than 200,000 members of the print, radio and television outfits will be able to exercise their right to suffrage. He noted that this was a significant number in determining the results of the midterm elections next year.
In a 16-page resolution penned by Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, the Comelec directed the election body’s Committee on Local Absentee Voting to draft the implementation rules and regulations (IRR) that will govern the early media voting.
The petition, which was filed before the Comelec in April, only covered voting for national posts.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Tuesday said the election body may have to designate an area, probably the Comelec headquarters in Intramuros, Manila, where media practitioners can cast their ballots manually ahead of election day.
“Most likely, it will be held here so we can easily secure your ballots, which will only be opened on election day,” said Brillantes in an interview with reporters Tuesday following the promulgation of the decision.
As to the schedule of the early voting, it will have to be decided upon by the committee after it has come up with the IRR, said Brillantes.
“We have to work out the rules on how this will work but more or less it will be similar to the local absentee voting,” said the poll chief.
Citing data from the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), the media petition said there was a total of 2,319 media outfits in the Philippines. Of this number, 800 are print publications while 297, television stations; 659 FM radio stations and 383 AM radio stations.
Among those who manifested their support for the petition were: Mike Enriquez of GMA Network; Rey Langit, KBP vice president, and Benny Antiporda and Marlon Purificacion of the National Press Club.
“From the affidavits of these media personalities about a hundred media men from each outfit are in danger of being disenfranchised on election day because of the nature of their job. This means a total of 213,900 qualified voters in danger of being disenfranchised unless the Comelec immediately act on the petition,” argued Macalintal in the petition.
Only Election Commissioner Christian Robert Lim disagreed with the en banc decision, stressing that allowing early voting among the media constituted an “impermissible usurpation” of the legislative power of the House of Representatives.
In an eight-page dissenting opinion, Lim also said the Comelec does not have the authority to allow early media voting since the law governing local absentee voting specifically identified to whom it applies, particularly to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
But the en banc ruled that the Comelec, as the “country’s sole vanguard in enforcing and administering the constitutional right of suffrage of its citizens, saw “no wrong in granting the petition of the members of the media to exercise this right.”
Originally posted: 6:43 pm | Tuesday, October 9th, 2012