11% of over 5,000 inmates at Cebu City Jail allowed to vote

11% of over 5,000 inmates
at Cebu City Jail allowed to vote
Photo by Kaiser Jan Fuentes

ONLY 11.3 percent or 590 of the 5,221 inmates at the Cebu City Jail’s male dormitory in Barangay Kalunasan were eligible to vote in the Barangay and Sangguniang Elections (BSKE) on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023.

These persons deprived of liberty were eligible to cast their votes for candidates in 64 of 80 barangays in Cebu City, according to JO1 Thea Marcelle Bation, community relations officer at the city jail. Bation failed to give the number of inmates who cast their votes as of press time. The city jail also failed to give the number of female PDLs eligible to vote for the BSKE.

The Cebu City Jail was among the 41 out of 42 jail facilities run by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Central Visayas (BJMP 7) that conducted onsite voting Monday.

A total of 5,520 PDLs in Central Visayas were allowed to vote in the BSKE.

At the Cebu City Jail’s male dormitory, Bation said they had observed a decrease in the number of eligible voters, initially exceeding 1,000. She clarified that the reduction was due to some individuals being released and others receiving final court verdicts.

According to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) guidelines, eligible PDL voters include those facing charges and awaiting trial, individuals with sentences under one year, and those convicted of rebellion or sedition. They can cast their votes at detention facility centers or regular precincts if their hometown matches the jail’s location. When there are over 50 PDL voters, special centers may be set up in jails; otherwise, inmates are escorted to precincts in their barangays with security personnel.

Bation said no PDLs were escorted outside the jail facility for offsite voting. They conducted the PDL voters for both Cebu City North and South Districts within the facility.

She also noted that there were no significant disruptions during the casting of votes for the PDLs. However, there was a slight delay in the arrival of ballots, arriving after 6 a.m. Voting in jail facilities starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m.

Despite the intense heat at the city jail, there were no medical emergencies among the PDL voters. Weather experts had predicted an extreme heat index of up to 39 to 40 degrees Celsius on Election Day.

This was the first time that detainees can vote for the village and youth polls in accordance with the 2022 decision from the Supreme Court (SC).

The SC’s nine-page ruling, dated March 29, 2022, but published only on Aug. 30 of the same year, dismissed a petition that sought to prevent detainees from participating in the 2016 elections until clear guidelines were provided.

The high court, in response to the petition filed by lawyer Victor Aguinaldo, lifted the partial temporary restraining order issued on April 19, 2016 prohibiting detainees from voting in the local elections that year.

The justices noted that the petitioner lacked a personal interest in the case, failing to meet the requirements for judicial review.

The SC also saw no need to delve into the substantive issues raised by the petitioner.

As a result, the Comelec was able to fully implement its Resolution 9371, which permits detainees to register and vote in all upcoming local and national elections, including barangay and SK polls.


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