Fraud found in day 1 of Armm voters registration-A A +A
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
COTABATO CITY (Updated 1:17 p.m.) -- The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) noted the beginning of next year’s election fraud on the first day of the 10-day special voters registration in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).
People who don’t look a day over 16 lined outside registration centers with registration forms -- filled out with the help of barangay workers -- ready to be submitted to Commission on Elections (Comelec) representatives, many of whom were brought here from Cebu and the rest of the Visayas.
The regular voting age is 18.
“I feel so drained… It's just the same thing all over again just using a different strategy,” said Henrietta de Villa, national chairperson of the PPCRV.
De Villa was in Maguindanao Tuesday to oversee the deployment of more than 1,000 PPCRV volunteers who will keep watch here until the 10-day special registration ends. Other groups of PPRCV volunteers are operating in Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-tawi.
De Villa visited the Maguindanao towns of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Datu Saudi, Datu Unsay and Sharif Aguak.
It was in Datu Odin Sinsuat that she first noticed the trend -- teens below the voting age were in the registration centers accompanied by people claiming to be their parents and herded together by people who, when asked, confirmed to be barangay workers.
Kiram (not his real name) stood outside the classroom at the Taviran Elementary School that had been converted into a voting center. He was clutching three copies of voters registration form and waiting for his turn behind the voter registration machine -- a finger scanner and web camera mounted on a computer that ran on special software.
De Villa, who was about to enter the classroom, saw Kiram and immediately asked for his age. He said he was 20 but gave the wrong birth year when pressed. A woman who immediately introduced herself as Kiram’s mother spoke up and said he was indeed 20 and was her third son.
De Villa noticed the same thing in the voting center in Kurintem. This time, it was a girl who “looked like she was 14” and was sitting on top of an elementary pupil’s school desk.
When asked about her age, the girl said she was 19 but, again, gave the wrong birth date, 1996. An older looking lady who identified herself as a friend insisted that the girl was as old as she was.
“It’s a very frustrating feeling. Para ano ba itong pinag-hihirapan natin (what is all this effort for)?” De Villa said after seeing the same thing in other voting centers.
She said the voters registration will succeed in de-listing dead voters, and the use of the biometric technology will stop multiple registration. However, given what she saw in Datu Odin Sinsuat and the neighboring towns, De Villa said it will not stop padding.
And while under-aged registration is easily prevented by requiring the presentation of one’s birth certificate from the National Statistics Office, Armm is peculiar in the sense that not everyone there has a registered birth.
“May nag a-attest na magulang (and parents are in it too). Dito, when you have a companion or a sister verifying confirming na eto ganun, it’s your word against theirs,” the PPCRV chair said.
She hinted that it may be part of a greater scheme, adding that some political parties have released statements that tend to prime the public’s thinking; pronouncements like how the voter registration in Maguindanao will reflect an increase in the population of those of voting age because of a higher birth rate in the previous years.
“Kahit i-add mo lahat ‘yan, it cannot be that the increase in population rate will be more than the number de-listed,” De Villa stressed.
She also said that people from the barangay are being utilized -- a violation of the omnibus election code but something that she said Comelec workers who are naturally fearful cannot control.
“That’s the problem with controlled-area operation,” she said, explaining the term as trying to keep elections credible in a place controlled by powerful entities.
Reportedly where former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sourced the final number of votes that allowed her to elbow past the late Fernando Poe Jr. during the 2004 elections, next year’s Armm poll is heavily watched.
It will be held in the backdrop of President Benigno Aquino III’s strong pronouncements toward a graft-free and transparent government, the breaking down of private armies and the first-time biometrics technology is used in the preparation of a voters list, purportedly to prevent fraud.
It also comes following the rise of Esmael Mangudadatu as Maguindanao governor, the fall of Andal Ampatuan whose family remains powerful in some parts, the continued call of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for a sub-state and the counter-offer of making them lead an expanded Armm instead.
At Camp Darapanan, MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, speaking at a press conference called to end the three-day Bangsamoro Leaders Assembly that opened here last Friday, declined to comment.
Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town, also in Maguindanao province, is the MILF’s main headquarters.
Ebrahim called it something best left to the National Government to resolve, an idea that former party-list congressman Satur Ocampo, who attended the press conference, agreed with.
De Villa is set to visit next Guindolongan, Sharif Saidona, Datu Salibo, Mangudadatu, Pagalungan, Pagagawan, Sultan Mastura, Matanog, Barira and Parang, where PPCRV volunteer Saida Caramudin was assaulted by four women whom she refused to issue PPCRV shirts and identification cards.
She will likewise inspect within the week registration centers in Buluan, a stronghold of the incumbent Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, and Sultan Kudarat, where the Camp Darapanan is located.