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AKBAYAN-Youth vs Commission on Election

GR Nos. 147066 & 147179; 26 March 2001)

DOCTRINE: The right of suffrage is not at all absolute. The exercise of the right is subject to existing substantive and
procedural requirements embodied in our Constitution, statute books, and other repositories of law. As to the substantive
aspect, Section 1 of Article V of the Constitution provides for it. As to the procedural limitation, the right of a citizen to vote
is necessarily conditioned upon certain procedural requirements he must undergo: among others, the process of
registration. Proceeding from the significance of registration as a necessary requisite to the right to vote, the State
undoubtedly, in the exercise of its inherent police power, may then enact laws to safeguard and regulate the act of voters’
registration for the ultimate purpose of conducting honest, orderly, and peaceful election

FACTS: Petitioners - representing the youth sector - seek to direct the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to conduct
a special registration before the May 14, 2001 General Elections, of new voters ages 18 to 21. According to petitioners,
around four million youth failed to register on or before the December 27, 2000 deadline set by the respondent COMELEC
under Republic Act No. 8189.On February 8, 2001, the COMELEC issued Resolution No. 3584 denying the petition.
Aggrieved by the denial, petitioners AKBAYAN-Youth, SCAP, UCSC, MASP, KOMPIL II(YOUTH) et al. filed before this
Court the instant Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus.

ISSUE:

1. Whether or not this Court can compel respondent COMELEC to conduct a special registration of new voters
during the period between the COMELEC’s imposed December 27, 2000 deadline and the May 14, 2001 general
elections.
2. Whether or not the COMELEC exercised grave abuse of discretion when it denied the extension of the voters
registration.

HELD:

1. The petitions are bereft of merit. As to the procedural limitation, the act of registration is an indispensable
precondition to the right of suffrage. For registration is part and parcel of the right to vote and an indispensable
element in the election process. Thus, contrary to petitioners’ argument, registration cannot and should not be
denigrated to the lowly stature of a mere statutory requirement. Proceeding from the significance of registration
as a necessary requisite to the right to vote, the State undoubtedly, in the exercise of its inherent police power,
may then enact laws to safeguard and regulate the act of voter’s registration for the ultimate purpose of
conducting honest, orderly and peaceful election, to the incidental yet generally important end, that even pre-
election activities could be performed by the duly constituted authorities in a realistic and orderly manner – one
which is not indifferent and so far removed from the pressing order of the day and the prevalent circumstances of
the times. Considering the circumstances where the writ of mandamus lies and the peculiarities of the present
case, we are of the firm belief that petitioners failed to establish, to the satisfaction of this Court, that they are
entitled to the issuance of this extraordinary writ so as to effectively compel respondent COMELEC to conduct a
special registration of voters. For the determination of whether or not the conduct of a special registration of
voters is feasible, possible or practical within the remaining period before the actual date of election, involves the
exercise of discretion and thus, cannot be controlled by mandamus.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petitions for certiorari and mandamus are hereby DENIED.

2. No. The COMELEC was well within its right to do so pursuant to the clear provisions of Section 8, RA 8189 which
provides that no voters registration shall be conducted within 120 days before the regular election. The right of
suffrage is not absolute. It is regulated by measures like voters registration which is not a mere statutory
requirement. The State, in the exercise of its inherent police power, may then enact laws to safeguard and
regulate the act of voter’s registration for the ultimate purpose of conducting honest, orderly and peaceful election,
to the incidental yet generally important end, that even pre-election activities could be performed by the duly
constituted authorities in a realistic and orderly manner – one which is not indifferent and so far removed from the
pressing order of the day and the prevalent circumstances of the times. RA 8189 prevails over RA 8436 in that
RA 8189’s provision is explicit as to the prohibition. Suffice it to say that it is a pre-election act that cannot be
reset.

Further, even if what is asked is a mere two-day special registration, COMELEC has shown in its pleadings that if
it is allowed, it will substantially create a setback in the other pre-election matters because the additional voters
from the special two day registration will have to be screened, entered into the book of voters, have to be
inspected again, verified, sealed, then entered into the computerized voter’s list; and then they will have to reprint
the voters information sheet for the update and distribute it – by that time, the May 14, 2001 elections would have
been overshot because of the lengthy processes after the special registration. In short, it will cost more
inconvenience than good. Further still, the allegation that youth voters are disenfranchised is not sufficient.
Nowhere in AKBAYAN-Youth’s pleading was attached any actual complaint from an individual youth voter about
any inconvenience arising from the fact that the voters registration has ended on December 27, 2001. Also,
AKBAYAN-Youth et al admitted in their pleading that they are asking an extension because they failed to register
on time for some reasons, which is not appealing to the court. The law aids the vigilant and not those who
slumber on their rights.