Security tight as ARMM starts 10-day voter re-registration

Posted on July 09, 2012

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The 10-day voter listing for the autonomous Muslim region starts today with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ensuring tight security for thousands of expected registrants, an official said.

Director James Arthur B. Jimenez, Comelec spokesman, said security measures have been beefed up in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the general relisting that will run until July 18.

“The security threat is not so bad. Overall we expect it to be generally peaceful,” he told BusinessWorld in a chance interview here.

Top Comelec officials, including Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr., arrived here late Saturday to oversee preparations for the listing. Mr. Brillantes also met with military and police officials, along with civil society groups, to discuss the security situation.

The national government has earlier agreed to address double registration which had marred past elections.

The Muslim region has been the center stage of massive poll cheating during the 2007 senatorial elections after the previous administration was believed to have connived with local politicians to rig the results in favor of administration candidates.

The Comelec has earlier disclosed that there were more than 300,000 multiple registrants in the region, mostly listed in far-flung precincts in towns where political rivalry is intense.

Mr. Jimenez said the Commission expects the number of registrants reduced to around 1.2 million from the current 1.8 million voters described as a “bloated figure.”

Mr. Jimenez said voting registration machines have already arrived at the centers, which can accommodate residents in at least 20 villages. The machines would capture the biometrics of registrants, which include their pictures, fingerprints and signatures.

The Comelec earlier said it has deployed more than 2,000 personnel, who are not from the Muslim region, to man the established registration/voting centers in the Muslim region.

In addition, the Comelec has already issued a resolution deputizing the police and military to guard registration sites.

ARMM, which groups the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and the island-provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, has been traditionally on the Comelec’s list of having high incidences of crimes and violence during election season.

The filing of candidacies in 2010 elections, for instance, saw the gruesome murder of 53 people, including 32 journalists, in ARMM blamed on the Ampatuan political clan leaders that triggered worldwide condemnation.

Acting ARMM Governor Mujiv S. Hataman, who serves as chairman of the region’s interagency regional peace and order council, has earlier expressed apprehension over possible attempts by private armed groups and political warlords to “import “flying voters in their areas and interfere in the 10-day voters’ registration in the region.

This time, “we expect it to be orderly with occasional isolated low-level conflict between political supporters,” Mr. Jimenez.

The Comelec last week placed the entire ARMM region, along with nearby cities of Cotabato in Maguindanao, Isabela in Basilan, Zamboanga and Iligan, and the whole province of Sultan Kudarat, under a 30-day gun ban.


Meanwhile, the Comelec has deputized the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) as its watchdog for the registration of voters.

The Comelec has granted the group’s petition filed in May for accreditation as citizen arm in the process in line with the Omnibus Election Code.

Under the law, PPCRV can conduct a house-to-house canvass of registrants if necessary as well as a registration drive to make sure all eligible citizens are registered.

The organization can also report violations on election campaigns and expenditures. -- Darwin T. Wee with an input from MJOC