Nearly one-fifth of ARMM voters fake, delisted

Reynaldo Santos Jr

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280,077 on voters list were below voting age or registered more than once

REGISTRATION. An election officer assists registrants in a school in Maguindanao. Photo from LENTE

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has delisted more than 280,000 from the voters’ roll in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as of Tuesday, December 4.

The number represents 18 percent or nearly a fifth of the registered voters in the 5-province region that has become notorious for wholesale cheating operations of national candidates during elections.

In a report, ARMM election director Rey Sumalipao said that 280,077 out of the 1,566,795 applications this year were rejected after the election registration board (ERB) hearings held from November 26 to 30.

The poll body conducted a general registration in the region from July 9-18, requiring already registered voters to apply anew, and accommodating new registrants. It was meant to cleanse the voters’ list, which, in the 2010 elections, included 1,816,022 voters.

The 2013 polls will also be the first time that the elections for regional positions in the ARMM will be held simultaneously with the local and national elections.

Earlier, Commissioner Elias Yusoph said the difference between the total registered voters in 2010 and this year was “well within the acceptable range, especially if we factor in the number of previous registrants who have died or have transferred registration.” 

In the first wave of list cleansing in August this year, 236,489 applications were already rejected–33,778 because the applicants were minors, and the rest because they registered twice or more at different precincts.

After the ERB hearing, 43,588 more were delisted, bringing the total of disqualified voters to 280,077. Of the total disqualified voters, 29,304 were found to be below voting age, while 250,773 were double or multiple registrants.

These applicants were found after a post-verification process using an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).

Comelec Maguindanao provincial supervisor Udtog Tago earlier stated that “if an applicant will be detected as a double registrant, [the] utmost punishment is he cannot vote.”

During the general registration last July, about 50,000 minors in ARMM were reportedly forced to join the registration. Although the youthful looks of the registrants gave their real age away, the election officers allowed them to register to avoid confrontation in the registration centers and to prevent delays.

The official list of qualified registered voters will be posted on January 13, according to Sumalipao. –

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