MANILA -- The poll body is mulling on filing appropriate charges against hundreds of voters who were caught to have registered twice or thrice for the 2010 elections.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) recently discovered 43,000 double or multiple registrants in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) alone.

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These multiple registrants, who were caught with the help of the poll body's biometrics and automated fingerprint identification system (Afis), will face the appropriate charges although they will be allowed to vote in the coming May elections, Sarmiento said.

"The fact that they resorted to this double registration is by itself a violation of the Omnibus Election Code. They can vote but without prejudice to the filing of appropriate charges," he said.

Under the Omnibus Election Code, those who will be proven guilty of registering multiple times may face one to six years imprisonment without probation and disqualification from holding public office.

The Supreme Court (SC) recognizes the first record of the voter as the valid registration. He or she will be allowed to vote in the precinct where his or her first registration data belongs.

Sarmiento said the Comelec is also looking into the National Capital Region (NCR), where the same offense was believed committed by registered voters.

He said they are also planning to authorize the Comelec's information and technology department (ITD) to remove the double or multiple registrants from the official list of voters.

"Why would you register multiple times? This is very unusual. In other words, they registered in different precincts," said Sarmiento.

He added that some of the multiple registrants even posed with different hairstyles and wore different clothes.

He said the poll body is already conducting investigation on the cases while charges will be filed soon against the double registrants. He added that they may designate the Department of Justice (DOJ) to impose punishment on these Omnibus Election Code violators.

The discovery of the 43,000 double or multiple registrants in Armm and Calabarzon came as the Comelec is finalizing with the schedule of the printing of ballots.

Sarmiento said Friday that the schedule may still be adjusted due to the delay in decisions concerning disqualification cases.

"There might be an adjustment on the date on the printing of the ballots because we have to cleanse the list of candidates, of those who qualified," said Sarmiento.

He, however, assured that the commissioners are fast-tracking the resolutions on disqualification cases pending before the poll body since this might affect the schedule of ballot printing.

The Comelec earlier announced that the printing of ballots will start on January 25.

Sarmiento said Comelec chairman Jose Melo already reminded the first and second division to work double time on the cases assigned to them.

The poll official hopes that all the cases the Comelec is handling now will be settled soon.

As to the double or multiple registrants, Sarmiento is positive that the discovery of ITD will send a strong signal to voters to be careful in their registration "because we have this new technology to discover these cases."

The biometrics system, which was used in the registration for the 2010 automated polls, stores a voter's personal information, picture, signature, and his or her thumbprints.

As of Friday, the poll body has recorded over 50 million registered voters for the May 10 elections, and the number of the double or multiple registrants is expected to increase since the commission is cleansing the voters list. (Kathrina Alvarez/With PNA/Sunnex)