Registration of Voters in the Philippines

voter registration

Suffrage has been defined as the right to vote in political elections. However, it has a deeper meaning than merely exercising the right to vote. Suffrage includes the right to shape the future. After all, in voting, we determine our leaders who will either steer us to the shore of development or to the deep waters of poverty.

Article V, Section 1 of the Philippine Constitution enumerates the requirements in order to exercise the right of suffrage. The qualifications are simple:

1. One must be a citizen of the Philippines
2. One must be at least eighteen (18) years of age (except for Sangguniang kabataan elections)
3. One must have resided in the Philippines for at least one (1) year immediately preceding the election
4. One must have resided in the place where he/she proposes to vote for at least six (6) months immediately preceding the election
5. One must not be disqualified by law

The Constitution further mandates that no literacy, property or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the right to suffrage. Consequently, those who cannot read and/or write can vote. They will be assisted by a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity, or a trusted person who belongs to the same household or any member of the Board of Election Inspectors.

As to disqualifications, the following are disqualified from registering as voters:

1. A person sentenced by final judgment to suffer imprisonment of not less than 1 year. However, any person disqualified under this rule shall automatically reacquire the right to vote upon expiration of five (5) years after service of sentence.

2. A person adjudged by final judgment of having committed a crime involving disloyalty to the government such as rebellion, sedition, violation of firearms law or crime against national security. However, any person disqualified under this rule shall automatically reacquire the right to vote upon expiration of 5 years after service of sentence.

3. Insane or incompetent persons declared as such by competent authority UNLESS subsequently declared by proper authority no longer insane.

Under Republic Act No. 9189, otherwise known as the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003, all citizens of the Philippines abroad, who are not otherwise disqualified by law, at least eighteen (18) years of age on the day of election, may vote for president, vice-president, senators and party-list representatives. Furthermore, in the case of Nicolas-Lewis v. COMELEC (G.R. No. 162759, 04 August 2006) the Supreme Court ruled that considering the unison intent of the Constitution and Republic Act No. 9189 and the expansion of the scope of that law with the passage of Republic Act No. 9225, dual citizens or Filipinos who have reacquired their Filipino citizenship under Republic Act No. 9225, may now exercise the right of suffrage thru the absentee voting scheme and as overseas absentee voters. It must be noted that if the dual citizens reside in the Philippines and have complied with the residency requirements spelled above, they may register and vote as ordinary voters.

Republic Act No. 8189, otherwise known as the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996, provides for a system of a permanent list of voters as well as continuing registration of voters. The law mandates a continuing registration of voters. However, such registration cannot be conducted during the period starting 120 days before a regular election and 90 days before a special election. In Anakbayan Youth vs. COMELEC (GR No. 147066, 26 March 2001) the Supreme Court upheld the action of the COMELEC in denying petitioner’s request for two (2) additional registration days in order to enfranchise around 4 million youth who failed to register on the slated deadline.

Republic Act No. 10367 is the law which mandated the taking of biometrics of voters. When such requirement was questioned, the Supreme Court in Kabataan Party List vs. Comelec (G.R. No. 221318, 18 December 2015) upheld the validity of requiring biometrics. It added that registration is a form of regulation and not a qualification for the right of suffrage. Although one is a qualified voter, he must comply with the registration procedure to vote. Thus, it is only a procedural limitation on the right to vote.

If a voter, who is disqualified or does not possess the qualifications, is duly registered, one can file a petition for his exclusion as a voter. On the other hand, a person whose name was stricken from the Book of Voters may file a petition for his inclusion as a voter.

The Municipal Trial Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all cases of inclusion and exclusion of voters in their respective territorial jurisdiction. Decisions of Municipal Trial Court may be appealed by aggrieved party to Regional Trial Court within 5 days from receipt of notice thereof. Otherwise, such will become final and executory. Regional Trial Court shall decide the appeal within 10 days from the time it is received.

Any registered voter, representative of a political party or Election Officer, may file with the Municipal Trial Court a sworn petition for the exclusion of voter from the permanent list of voters giving the name, address and precinct of the challenge voter at any time EXCEPT 100 days prior to a regular election or 65 days before a special election.

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