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After TRO, SC gives green light for Comelec's 'No Bio, No Boto' policy

After temporarily stopping the controversial policy, the Supreme Court has finally decided to uphold the legality of the Commission on Elections' "No Bio, No Boto" rule for the 2016 national elections.
This was after the high tribunal, in a special en banc session, dismissed a petition from a group led by the Kabataan party-list.

In a media briefing, SC spokesman Theodore Te said the petition was denied for lack of merit and that temporary restraining order issued by the high court last December 1 has now been ordered "dissolved." 

In its ruling, the high court distinguished between the concept of "qualification" and "registration" in the elections, saying the latter is merely a means with which a person's qualifications to vote are determined.

"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... the same cannot be struck down as unconstitutional, as in this case," ruled the SC.

The SC said the policy of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) passed the "strict scrutiny" test, adding the objective of cleansing the national voter registry by eliminating electoral fraud is reflective of the will of the electorate and constitutes a compelling state interest.

The SC stressed that the policy is actually already considered the "least restrictive means" to update the registration for those already registered under Republic Act 8189 through technology.
The petitioners, in contesting the legality of the deactivation of the registration of voters without biometrics, have asked the SC to enjoin the implementation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 10367 or the Mandatory Biometrics Law and nullify Comelec resolution No. 9721, 9863, and 10013, which are all related to the deactivation of voter registration records in the May 9, 2016 national and local elections.
The petitioners noted that despite the Comelec’s “No Bio, No Boto” campaign, official data from the poll body showed that only 3,599,906 registered voters have undergone the mandatory biometrics validation procedure as of September 30, 2015.
Comelec data showed 3,059,601 registered voters remained without biometrics as of September 30, 2015, and thus stand to lose their right to vote.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said they can now proceed with the finalization of the list of voters and project of precincts.

"The lifting of the TRO will enable us to proceed with the finalization of the list of voters and project of precincts," Bauitsta said.

He said the Comelec is "very plesed that the SC saw it our way."

The poll chief earlier said that the May 9, 2016 election day might be postponed if the SC fails to immediately lift the TRO on its "no bio, no boto" policy.

Following the Supreme Court's ruling, Malacañang said it is now up to Comelec to ensure that preparations for the conduct of the 2016 national elections are in accordance with the timetable.

"We leave it to the Comelec's best judgment, as an independent constitutional body, on how to proceed in the light of the Supreme Court ruling," said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. in a statement.

Malacañang earlier rejected the possibility of postponing the elections, citing the constitutional requirement of holding the polls on the second Monday of May. —with Kathrina Charmaine Alvarez/KBK, GMA News