COMELEC TAKES ABSENTEE VOTING LAW TO COURT   

Manila, March 6, 2003 -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) asked the Supreme Court yesterday to declare unconstitutional a provision in the Overseas Absentee Voting Act that empowers Congress to review, revise, amend, and approve the rules and regulations the poll body will promulgate to implement the law.

In its comment, the Comelec underscored the need to maintain a poll body that is independent of supervision, interference, and influence by any branch of government. It said that its power to formulate rules and regulations had been upheld by the Supreme Court which had ruled that such authority "is deemed implicit in the power to implement regulations."

"If the Comelec's independence is to be upheld, the same rule-making power should be free from the review, revision, and approval of any other body," it told the High Court. In affect, the Comelec joined the petition of lawyer Romulo Macalintal who had asked the Supreme Court to declare the provision unconstitutional.

Macalintal had also asked that two other provisions be declared unconstitutional. These are:

1. Section 5 (d) which allows Filipino immigrants or permanent residents in other countries to vote, provided "he or she executes, upon registration, an affidavit prepared for the purpose by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declaring that he or she shall resume actual physical permanent residence in the Philippines not later than three years from the approval of his or her registration and that he or she has not applied for citizenship in another country."

2. A portion of Section 18.5 that empowers the Comelec "to order the proclamation of winning candidates despite the fact that the scheduled election has not taken place in a particular country or countries, if the holding of elections therein has been rendered impossible by events, factors and circumstances percular to such country or countries, and which events, factors and circumstances are beyond the control or influence of the Constitution," in so far as they will be applied to winning presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

According to Macalintal, Section 5 (d) of Overseas Absentee Voting Act violates Section 1, Article V of the Constitution which provides that "suffrage may be exercised by all citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are at least 18 years of age, and who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year and in the place wherein they propose to vote for at least six months immediately preceding the election."

He said the Supreme Court has ruled that "immigration to the United States by virtue of a green card which entitles one to reside permanently in that country constitutes abandonment of domicile in the Philippines. (By Rey G. Panaligan, Bulletin)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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