Senate approves media absentee voting bill

THE Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to allow media members to vote earlier than other regular voters in the 2013 national and local elections.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile lauded the approval of Senate Bill No. 1198, noting that such privilege is also granted to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other government officials and employees who have to report for duty during election day, as provided under Republic Act 7166 on local absentee voting.

The proposed legislation was authored by Sen. Manny Villar.

“If there is one sector of our free society whose eye witness reportage on the conduct of our electoral process is vital and indispensable, it is none other than the mass media of our country,” Sen. Koko Pimentel, chairman of the Committee on Electoral Reforms and sponsor of the bill, said.

“This bill would allow media practitioners to vote on specified days earlier than election day so that even if on election day, they are assigned to cover election events away from their place of registration as voters, they would nonetheless have the opportunity to cast their votes,” he added.

Last month, the Commission on Elections approved a petition filed by media personalities allowing media members to vote before election day.

Under SBN 1198, only duly registered media members will be allowed to vote before Election Day.

Media members must also be accredited by Comelec as recommended by the media outfit to which they belong and may only vote on the days fixed by the Comelec in the city or municipality where their media outfit has established as its main or satellite office.

“The requirements should serve as a timely reminder that not all individuals who claim they are media practitioners will automatically enjoy the right to vote under this bill,” Pimentel said.

He said media members are limited to vote for the President, Vice-President, senators and party-list representatives.

“The limitation is purposely made to make it jibe with the limitations set forth in Executive Order No. 157, as amended, that grants the same privilege to other groups of people to vote earlier than on election day and to minimize confusion among voters concerned and the implementation of the bill once it becomes law,” Pimentel explained.

He said the bill also includes the technical and support staff of the media outfit such as the crew members of a television outfit.


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