Congress OKs mandatory biometrics registration bill

MANILA, Philippines - Both houses of Congress approved on Thursday, December 6, a bill requiring all voters to undergo biometrics registration. It will likely be implemented for the 2016 elections.

The bicameral conference committee, headed by Sen Aquilino Pimentel III, approved the proposal taken from House Bill 3469 and Senate Bill 1030, which requires all voters to appear before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to have their photograph, fingerprints and signatures recorded.

HB6052 was passed on May 23, while SB1030 was approved on November 12.

Both bills originally indicated that the proposal is targetted for the 2013 elections. But Pimentel said that the provision was changed to move its implementation to 2016.

"We don't want to distrupt the preparations of Comelec for 2013," Pimentel told reporters.

Comelec chairperson Sixto Brillantes Jr earlier said that an estimated 8 million voters have no biometrics yet, and won't be able to vote next year if the original proposal pushes through.

Capturing biometrics during voter's registration was initiated only in 2004. In this process, the photographs, fingerprints, and signatures of voters are captured and stored as digital data using Comelec's Voter Registration Machine (VRM).

The proposal is seen as a way to eliminate irregularities such as double registrants. Pimentel earlier said that the implementation of biometrics “will allow a thorough cleansing of the national voters’ registry that will reduce, if not eliminate, cheating," and will ensure that election results “are reflective of the genuine will of the people.”

Concerns have been raised though on how effective this would be.

Pimentel said that bill will likely be passed into law before the end of this year.

Mandatory biometrics registration was first implemented this year in the general registration in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The registration, which ran from July 9 to 18, was meant to cleanse the voters' list, which, in the 2010 elections, included 1,816,022 voters.

Using an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the Comelec has delisted around 280,000 registrants in the region. - Rappler.com