By KEITH BACONGCO, MindaNews
COTABATO CITY – The registration of minors, flying registrants and multiple registrations have remained rampant in the 10-day registration of voters last month in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), according to a task force tasked to assess the registration.
Task Force Rehistro – which is composed of the election watchdogs, police, military and peace advocacy groups – assisted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during the re-registration of voters on July 9 to 18.
Lawyer Udtog Tago, provincial election supervisor of Maguindanao, said the list of registrants has been forwarded to the Comelec in Manila, who will then decide whether to approve or not the voters’ registration.
Initially, the schedule for hearing was set on August 13 to 17 but Tago said it may be moved sometime in September as the Comelec may run through all the lists using the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) before the Election Registration Board (ERB) hearing.
But in a separate interview, Tago said they are still waiting for the final resolution regarding this development.
“It would be better this way that they will run the list using the AFIS before the ERB in the municipalities for approval and disapproval. If any ERB will approve a double or multiple (registrant), he will be facing criminal charges because it as an election offense,” said the Comelec official.
In the past, Tago said, the ERB conducts the hearing first before running the list through the AFIS.
On Wednesday, Tago said, the Election and Barangay Affairs Department (EBAD) has sent them a memorandum requiring all election officers to submit the list of minors.
During the registration period, he added, there were some election officers who automatically rejected the registration of minors.
“But in some areas where the election officers were coerced and were afraid, what they did was they just put a mark on the application of minors,” Tago said.
Pearlsia Dans, assistant secretary of the Department Interior and Local Government in the ARMM, suggested that the minor, double or multiple registrants should not be included in the hearing anymore to save time.
Instead, the deletion should be done in the central office and not in the municipal level to avoid any interference or intimidation from the local government or any personalities with political interests.
Col. Daniel Lucero, commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, said his troops were able to intercept 170 vehicles loaded with suspected flying registrants coming from Maguindanao, Davao Oriental, Ozamiz, Dipolog, General Santos City and Bukidnon.
Then the soldiers eventually ordered them to go back to their places of origin, the Army official reported.
Lucero also disclosed that some of them were reportedly paid as much as P6,000 to register in Lanao del Sur.
The Citizens Care Lanao del Sur Management Center earlier reported that unscrupulous politicians had paid P500 to P1,000 to flying registrants from nearby Maguindanao and Lanao del Norte provinces to register as voters in Lanao del Sur.
Lucero also reported that some students in Mindanao State University in Marawi City were forced to register even if the students were not residents of the province.
He said government troops have arrested a certain Ali Macapaar for allegedly forcing the students to register. Appropriate charges have been filed against Macapaar on Thursday, said Lucero.
The Comelec has earlier reported that it was able to reduce the number of registered voters in the region from 1.7 million to 1.5 million.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told MindaNews on July 22 that the figure will “likely” go down to 1.1 or 1.2 million after the list is rid of multiple and underaged registrants.
The police in the region reported that the general re-registration was “generally peaceful.”
Police Supt. Siegfredo Ramos, chief of PNP Regional headquarters service group, reported that there were only seven registration-related incidents during the 10-day registration.
Mauling incidents occurred in Barira ( Maguindanao), Marawi City, Talipao (Sulu); a shooting incident at the Office of the Municipal Election Officer in Bayang, Lanao del Sur; indiscriminate firing in Lumbabayabao, Lanao del Sur; throwing of improvised explosive device in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan; and shooting incident in Maluso, also Basilan, the police reported.
Ramos said the mauling and shooting incidents were triggered by family feuds or rido. “They already have existing ridos, it just so happened that they met at the registration centers,” he added.
(ARMM WATCH is a project of VERA Files in partnership with MindaNews, The Asia Foundation and Australian Agency for International Development.)