ARMM re-registration set before Ramadan – Comelec

Comelec has declared July 9 to 18 as tentative dates for the conduct of general registrations in ARMM.

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has declared July 9 to 18 as tentative dates for the conduct of general registrations in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes said on May 11 that the Comelec is considering these dates for the ARMM general registration “so that [it] would end two days before the start of Ramadan.”

The announcement of the poll body came after calls were made by the Senate and President Benigno Aquino III himself to nullify ARMM’s current list of voters and conduct a new round of registration to ensure clean and honest elections in the region.

ARMM covers Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur. As of 2011, there are 1.8 million registered voters in ARMM, according to the Comelec website.

ARMM has gained notoriety for election violence and massive cheating. It is important to ensure clean elections in the region since tight national races, especially the senatorial elections, are usually decided in ARMM.

Early this month, majority of the senators signed Joint Resolution 17, which calls for the invalidation of the official list of voters in ARMM and for the immediate conduct of a new general registration of voters in the region.

The resolution calls for the suspension of registration in non-ARMM areas until August 31 to deploy personnel and equipment in ARMM. Based on the Comelec timeline, continuing registration in all regions is until October 31.

“The anomaly in the ARMM has national ramification because these ‘ghost’, fictitious and double, some are triple, registrants constitute the so-called ‘command votes’ or ‘controlled votes’ wielded by political warlords that could decide the winner not only in local but most importantly the national elections,” Senator Franklin Drilon said.

Even before this Senate resolution, President Benigno Aquino III has already called for a re-registration in ARMM. The president’s call is said to be part of government’s efforts to introduce reforms in the region, including “restoring credibility” in its electoral process.

The National Statistics Office earlier revealed an apparent discrepancy in the census reports of ARMM versus national figures. The country’s population rate, for example, rose 1.89 % from 2000 to 20007, versus ARMM’s, which registered a 5.46% growth during the same period.

The President has left it to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to decide whether to annul or not ARMM’s voters registration list.

The poll body, at first, expressed reservations about not have enough time for the re-registration. “If we start now (voter registration in ARMM), April, we will end in April (next year). It will be too close (to the May 13 elections),” Brillantes said. “But we will study this proposal to make this work.”

But after the resolution filed in the Senate, the poll body finally approves the re-registration. “We no longer see any obstacles. So we will start preparing for a general registration in the ARMM,” Brillantes said.

Brillantes said the Senate has assured that a final resolution will be out by June, giving Comelec “ample time to prepare.” –