SC junks petition vs. ‘No Bio, No Boto’ policy for lack of merit

By Perfecto T. Raymundo Jr.

MANILA, Dec. 16 (PNA) — The Supreme Court (SC) dismissed for lack of merit on Wednesday the petition against the “No Bio, No Boto” policy of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the May 9, 2016 national polls.

The petition was filed by Kabataan Party-List Rep. James Mark Terry L. Ridon and several others against the Comelec.

In a press conference, SC Public Information Office (PIO) Chief and Spokesman Atty. Theodore O. Te said the Court, speaking through Justice Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, ruled unanimously as follows:

“WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED due to lack of merit. The temporary restraining order issued by this Court on December 1, 2015 is consequently DISSOLVED. SO ORDERED.”

In disposing of the constitutional challenge to Republic Act No. 10367 and Comelec Resolution Nos. 9721, 9863, and 10013, the SC distinguished between the concept of “qualification” as far as suffrage is concerned and the concept of “registration” where the latter is jurisprudentially regarded as only the means by which a person’s qualifications to vote is determined.

Registering is only one step towards voting, and it is not one of the elements that makes the citizen a qualified voter.

“Thus, unless it is shown that a registration requirement rises to the level of a literacy, property or other substantive requirement as contemplated by the Framers of the Constitution — that is, one which propagates a socioeconomic standard which is bereft of any rational basis to a person’s ability to intelligently cast his vote and to further the public good — the same cannot be struck down as unconstitutional, as in this case,” the SC said.

The SC also ruled that contrary to petitioner’s argument, the regulation passes the “strict scrutiny” test.

Under this standard, the SC said, the government interest must be a compelling, not merely substantial, and there must be no other less restrictive means to achieve the interest.

The SC sustained the regulation challenged on the ground of strict scrutiny, ruling that the objective of cleansing the national voter registry so as to eliminate electoral fraud and ensure that election results are reflective of the will of the electorate constitute a compelling state interest.

As for the absence of less restrictive means to achieve this interest, the SC noted, the regulation is the least restrictive means as it is a manner of updating registration for those already registered under R.A. 8189 through technology.

The SC said that the regulation was narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling state interest of establishing a clean, complete, permanent and updated list of voters, and was demonstrably the least restrictive means to promote that interest. (PNA)