Overseas Voting Act Upheld; Supreme Court Decides Residency Issue, Rules Provision Constitutional
Byline: REY G. PANALIGAN
The Supreme Court upheld yesterday the constitutionality of the provision in the Overseas Voting Act of 2003 that allows Filipino immigrants and permanent residents in other countries to register and vote in the 2004 elections provided they execute an affidavit that they would return to the Philippines within three years from the approval of their registration.
In a full court decision written by Justice Ma. Alicia Austria Martinez, the High Court ruled that Section 5 (d) of Republic Act No. 9189 allowing Filipino immigrants and permanent residents in other countries to register and vote does not violate Section 1, Article V of the Constitution.
Section 1, Article V, of the Constitution provides that the voter must be residing in the Philippines at least one year and in the place where he proposes to vote for at least six months immediately preceding an election.
The High Court said that RA 9189 was passed pursuant to the mandate of Congress to provide for a system of voting by qualified Filipinos abroad under Section 2, Article V of the Constitution and its constitutes an exception to the residency requirement.
It said that RA 9189 was a clear outcome of the discussion of the members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission that was intended to enfranchise as much as possible all Filipino citizens abroad who have not abandoned their domicile of origin.
"The execution of the affidavit itself is not the enabling or enfranchising act. The affidavit required in Section 5 (d) is not only proof of the intention of the immigrant or permanent resident to go back and resume residency in the Philippines, but more significantly, it serves as an explicit expression that he had not in fact abandoned his domicile of origin," it pointed out.
It said that "Section 5 (d) does not only require the affiant to promise to resume actual physical permanent residence not later than three years from approval of his/her registration but also a declaration that he/she has not applied for citizenship in another country."
The decision was concurred in by Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Senior Justice Josue Belosillo, and Justices Jose Vitug, Artemio Panganiban, Antonio Carpio, Renato Corona, Conchita Carpio Morales, and Adolfo Azcuna.
Justices Reynaldo Puno, Consuelo Ynares Santiago, Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez, and Romeo Callejo Sr. dissented on the ground that Section 5 (d) of RA 1989 violates the residency requirement in the Constitution. …