Saturday, September 12, 2009

Qualifications of a Voter

As the deadline for the registration of voters, on October 31, 2009, draws near, it behooves us to revisit the provisions regarding the qualifications necessary in order to be duly registered as a voter.

Every citizen of the Philippines, not otherwise disqualified by law, eighteen years of age or over, who shall have resided in the Philippines for one year and in the city or municipality wherein he proposes to vote for at least six months immediately preceding the election, may be registered as a voter.

Any person who transfers residence to another city, municipality or country solely for reason of his occupation; profession; employment in private or public service; educational activities; work in military or naval reservation; service in the army, navy or air force; the constabulary or national police force; or confinement, or detention in government institutions in accordance with law, shall be deemed not to have lost his original residence.  [Section 117, Omnibus Election Code, as amended by P.D. 1896]
"No literacy, property, or other substantive requirements shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage."  [Article v, 1987 Philippine Constitution]
Citizenship Qualification

The above provisions provide "every citizen," hence, such citizen may either be naturalized or native-born.

Statutes unjustly discriminating against naturalized persons frequently have been held to be unconstitutional.  Thus, it is not permissible for the legislature to provide that naturalized voters in order to be registered must produce proper certificates of naturalization or satisfactory evidence thereof other than the oath of the applicant, for this would place them under requirements more stringent than those imposed on others whose own affidavits are accepted to establish that they are native born.

Likewise, the legislature may not prescribe a form of oath for naturalized citizens which puts an unreasonable burden upon them, (Attorney General, ex. rel. Conely vs. Detroit, 78 Mich. 545, 44 M.W. 388) or which is impossible for a class of them to assume.  (State ex rel. Miller vs. Flaherty, 23 N.D. 313, 136 N.W. 76)

Residence Qualification

Meaning of Residence

Residence imports not only intention to reside in a fixed place, but also personal presence in that place, coupled with conduct indications of such intention.  (Nuval vs. Guray, 52 Phil. 645; Tanseco vs. Arteche, 57 Phil. 227)

The permanent house means, the place to which, whenever absent for business or pleasure, intends to return.  (Evangelista vs. Santos, 86 Phil. 387)

The word "residence" and "domicile" though often used interchangeably, have distinct meanings in strict legal parlance, the former devoting permanency of occupation, whereas domicile is residence coupled with intention to remain for an unlimited time.  (Uytensu vs. Republic, 95 Phil. 890)

As used in the provisions of the Constitution of the Philippines dealing on the qualifications for elective offices, means the same thing as "domicile."  (Fred Wilson & Co. vs. De Veyra, 59 O.G. 7777)

Purposes of the Residence Qualification

The purposes of such a provision is two-fold: 

    (1)  It constitutes an invaluable protection against fraud through colonization and the inability to identify persons offering to vote; and 

    (2)   It further affords some security that the voter has in fact become a member of the community, and that, as such, he has a common interest in all matters pertaining to its government, and is, therefore, more likely to exercise his right intelligently.  (18 Am. Jur. 216-217)

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