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2K Bilibid prison votes still worth courting, counting

By Jaymee T. Gamil, Alex Austria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
11:41 pm | Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Democracy is at work even in a place that produces hundreds of improvised knives and other deadly weapons in secret.

A polling center will be set up at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City to allow about 10 percent of the total prison population to cast votes in the May 13 automated elections.

According to officials, it will be a first in the history of the NBP, a facility long plagued by overcrowding, recurring gang wars and, at times, escapes of high-profile inmates. Just last week, officials said they have confiscated some 300 knives from the cells in a recent inspection following a fatal stabbing incident.
Of the 22,000 inmates in the state penitentiary, 2,322 have registered to vote, with 2,065 of them from the maximum security compound and 257 from medium security, according to NBP superintendent Fajardo Lansangan.

While convicted criminals are considered Persons Deprived of Liberties (PDL) and are not allowed to vote, the inmates who registered last year for the elections were allowed to do so because their cases are still on appeal and they are still considered mere detainees, Bureau of Corrections director Franklin Jesus Bucayu explained.

“The decisions [on their respective cases] are not yet final because they have been appealed. They have a right to vote if they appealed within 10 to 15 days of their conviction,” Bucayu said, noting that most of the voters in the NBP were committed to the facility only recently.

Comelec rules

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Resolution No. 9371, which lays down the rules on detainee registration and voting, states that detainees entitled to vote are those “confined in jail, formally charged for any crime and awaiting trial; those serving a sentence of imprisonment for less than one year; or those whose conviction of a crime involving disloyalty to the duly constituted government such as rebellion, sedition, violation of the firearms laws or any crime against national security or for any other crime, is on appeal.”

Local candidates have actually campaigned inside the NBP, like reelectionist Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon of the Liberal Party. “Two thousand votes could mean a lot especially for local bets,” Bucayu said.

The NBP special polling center will be set up at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) administration building.
Only the ballots will be delivered to the NBP on election day. Once filled up, they will be delivered to a regular polling place for processing using the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine in Muntinlupa.

There will be 21 desks in the NBP polling precinct, each manned by a member of the Special Board of Election Inspectors and four Comelec personnel, said Lansangan.

Detainees with special needs or are illiterate will be assisted by proctors composed of teachers and Comelec personnel.
The May 13 exercise makes the NBP the first BuCor-run prison to open a special voting precinct, Bucayu said. The bureau operates seven prisons nationwide.

In the 2010 elections, voting was allowed behind bars though it was just limited to inmates whose cases were still pending in the trial courts and the polling centers were set up in facilities run by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.