By ARTHA KIRA PAREDES
THE hearings of the Election Registration Board (ERB) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has been postponed again.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Resolution 9519 promulgated September 13 moved the ERB schedule to November. The postponement was made based on the recommendation of lawyer Teofisto Elnas Jr, Director IV of the Election and Barangay Affairs Department.
|Last day to post Notice of Hearing with Lists of Applicant||Last day to file opposition to applications||Hearing and Approval/Disapproval of applications|
|Comelec Resolution 9519||November 12, 2012||November 19, 2012||November 26-30, 2012|
|Comelec Resolution 9515||September 6, 2012||September 13, 2012||September 20 to 26 2012 (Exclusive of Saturday and Sunday)|
|Comelec Resolution 9475||July 31, 2012||August 6, 2012||August 13 to 17, 2012|
The hearings are part of the process to cleanse the ARMM voters’ list, which was believed padded with flying voters and multiple registrants. Purging the voters’ list was the main reason a general registration was held July 9 to 18.
The ERB hearings are intended to give voters a chance to explain themselves, if the Comelec finds that they violate registration rules like enlisting in multiple precincts or being underaged.
The new schedule sets the hearings after the filing of certificates of candidacy for those vying for public office in the 2013 midterm elections, which is set from October 1 to 5.
This is the second time the ERB hearings have been postponed. The original date was in August and fell on the last week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was moved to September 20 to 26 to give time for the cleansing of double or multiple registrants by running biometrics data through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).
It appeared, however, that the finger print matching could not be completed before the reset ERB schedule. In a September 10 memo, Elnas wrote that the September schedule could not be met because the Comelec stopped the lease of additional server blades to be used for the AFIS. Elnas then advised Comelec to “just make use of its available resources in order to complete the cleansing process and subject all applications for registration in the ARMM to AFIS prior to the ERB hearing.”
The memo also stated that as of September 8, the Comelec had completed its investigation on less than half of all ARMM registrants—only 610,397 of the 1,567,409 registration applicants—and the screening of 51,455 names showing double or multiple hits.
The Regional Legislative Assembly in August proposed a resolution to use AFIS to “weed out illegal registrants” running a nationwide fingerprint match of the new list of ARMM registrants.
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Cotabato City President Noel A. Ben had earlier questioned the legality of automatically deleting the names of double and multiple registrants without first subjecting them to ERB hearings. He said automatic deletion is a violation of registrants’ procedural rights because no provision was made on the ARMM registration guidelines about automatic deletion.
ARMM elections are set for May 2013, according to Republic Act 10153 that synchronizes ARMM elections with the local and national elections. The law was approved June 30, 2011.
In a late August interview, ARMM Executive Secretary Anwar Malang expressed confidence that the 2013 elections will push through in the region.
After the first postponement of the ERB hearings, Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc-Tomawis also said she believed there will be no postponement of elections. She said the AFIS is a “less controversial” way to clean up the ARMM voters’ list compared to the previous system where “local factors” influenced ERB hearings. She said ERB members who are mostly from their respective areas “can easily be intimidated.”
(ARMM WATCH is a project of VERA Files in partnership with MindaNews, The Asia Foundation and Australian Agency for International Development.)