THE PRISONER AS VOTER
Prisoners can vote already. This is pursuant to a recent Comelec resolution. At least, those whose cases are up on appeal may be able to exercise their right to suffrage. And it is not a miniscule number. There are an estimated 47,000 detainees who may still be able to express their democratic preference on Election Day. In the National Penitentiary alone, there are around 2,000 votes, which can be expressed. In Davao Prison, around 370. While the number may be overturned by the so-called “command votes” of religious organizations, assuming there is such a thing, it can also spell a big difference to a close fight.
There has been a number of surveys commissioned to check the pulse of the electorate and the results were a bit telling. The administration ticket takes a large chunk of surveyed sample vote. How this would translate on D Day is another matter, although experience show that there is not much disparity in the scores. While those who are fledging and has not shown a remarkable performance may accuse the survey as some kind of conditioning, surveys like market studies at times prove accuracy to a considerable degree.
While in prison, survey may be a simple appraisal, the effect at times prove a little disappointing. Prisoners are never focused and most of those who are registered are wanting of literacy. They may be goaded to vote but their pulse may not be that precise as to blacken the encircled item accordingly. There will be smudges and excessive marks rendering the form useless to be read by the machine. Despite earlier exercises to make prison voters compliant with the technical requirements of filling up the ballot form, there will be imperfections. It is believed that 50% of the votes rendered may not be that countable at all.
Senatorial candidate “Tinting” Cojuanco knew the potency of prison votes. She has included in her campaign promise to pursue legislation protective of the rights of women prisoners. She might as well check the table of his nephew President because on top of it is a draft bill which has been approved by the Bicameral committee since December last year for signature of the Chief Executive strengthening the Bureau of Corrections or the Corrective agency as a whole. As it were, the correctional system has not heard yet of any laws advancing its principles for the last 30 years. And part of the improvement on rights of prisoners are in said draft bill.
It is even ironical that there are African countries, which have signified in their legislative agenda the pursuit of alternative to imprisonment like a comprehensive application of community service. We have never even attempted to check on it. Our political leaders are more concerned in winning at the polls than winning the heart and mind of the electorate. As some qualified prisoners troop to a make shift polling booth inside the prison camp, they knew that what they will be doing is the same act as their counterparts in the free community. It is one right that has been allowed to be exercised although what ranks most in their estimation is their quest for justice.
Its Election Day and everyone is expected to be heard through their votes. Some cautioned the electorate not to waste the vote, that the vote is sacred and should never be sold or compromised, that in voting, one does not reinforce those in surveys, but do it because they know those whom they will vote will make a difference. But how does an ordinary voter know? The only thing that reached him is a wad of bill wrapped in a sample ballot or campaign kitty. For him, the realisation of his power comes from the significance, nay, worth of his vote. Better a loose change than losing it. He can even pretend to vote and pocket the mullah. Whatever. There should be winners, as there are as a result, losers. Winners should reflect what this country needs and what the people deserve. The people have a contract for three years with these leaders and we will know what happens next. If the incumbent wins, we expect status quo. That means majority is enjoying and does not expect more. If the opponent wins, then its another story.
We await therefore the verdict courtesy of PCos.