MANILA -- The poll body clarified Monday that there were no double and multiple registrants for the May 10 elections in Davao Region contrary to reports by Philippine Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

“There's no such thing as 40,000 double registrants… We discussed the issue on the alleged padded voters' list. Based on our investigation, there appears to be that the issue was blown out of proportion,” said Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.

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Larrazabal recently went to Davao to personally meet with Comelec officials in the province and assured that there is a way to ensure registered voters will only be allowed to cast their votes once.

“We have the documents. I brought some documents back with me. We will be discussing that with PPCRV and other organizations on Wednesday,” he said.

The poll body is scheduled to meet with representatives from PPCRV, poll watchdog Kontra Daya 2010, and other civic groups on Wednesday to discuss issues on multiple registrants.

PPCRV lawyer Howard Calleja earlier alleged that there are about 40,000 duplicate voters in Davao City. Almost 1,000 are said to be zombie voters.

Calleja said that if the 40,000 voters are multiplied to the country's 40,000 provinces, there might be three to four million flying voters for the upcoming elections, which can make or break the presidential and vice presidential race results.

But Larrazabal said the cleansing of the voters' list in Davao was already accomplished.

“If you look at the records, there was a cleansing and there are methods and steps taken by the Comelec to ensure that a person who is multiple registered can only vote once. There is a control mechanism to ensure this happens. This is the first time to be implemented,” he said.

He added that the commission will be printing out copies of a watchlist of the alleged double, multiple, and zombie registrants to guide the board of election inspectors (BEIs) on Election Day.

But House Speaker Prospero Nograles, who is from Davao City, said the proposed watchlist to monitor multiple registrants for the May polls is an invitation to “civil chaos.”

He said it would be easier if the job of delisting multiple and zombie registrants would be accomplished by the Comelec alone rather than rely on a watchlist where human intervention may take place.

“This is a lot simpler than making a watchlist. Our registered voters should only have one registration and all the Comelec should do is to cross-check against their various computer database. We have computerized our election so that we can precisely remove all these spurious registrants,” Nograles said.

He added that setting up a watchlist provides no assurance that the people who will be chosen to lead it has no partisan leanings.

Several lawmakers also posed concern that the House of Representatives, which serves as the Board of Canvassers for the election of the President and Vice President, might have difficulty announcing the winner if the issue of the multiple registrants is raised in the canvassing.

In case of doubts on the issue within the electoral tribunal itself, a failure of elections may ensue.

The lawmakers were one in saying that a watchlist will be a waste of time and the Comelec should just do the delisting itself.

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez called the suggestion to put up a watchlist a farce because no such thing is indicated in the Omnibus Election Code.

For his part, Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III said the Comelec has the sole authority to scrutinize and delist all double, multiple, and dead registrants from the voters' list.

Comelec, at the same time, has enough funds to carry out the action, said Rodriguez.

“Congress allotted a P10.3 billion for the 2010 national elections, P7.2 billion of which went to poll automation. We still have P3.1 billion left that Comelec can use in cleaning the voters’ list,” he said.

Cavite Representative Crispin Remulla, for his part, has called on the Comelec to take the revelation seriously and purge the list of spurious registrants right away.

Speaker Nograles earlier questioned why the Comelec overlooked the alleged double registration of more than 9,000 residents in Davao City while the names of some 13,000 registered voters disappeared.

One of those who were part of the list that PPCRV provided was Kingdom of Jesus Christ leader Pastor Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, who is courted by various presidential candidates.

But Larrazabal said the Comelec records show only one registration record of the pastor, but admitted that a problem occurred during the validation of his registration.

The commissioner appealed to individuals and organizations to be careful in releasing statements regarding the automated polls.

“I hope people realize that this is a serious matter. You just don't throw figures around if you're not serious. When you say that there are so many millions of double registered voters, that's a very serious matter and I hope when people make those statements, they know the implications of that,” he said. (Kathrina Alvarez/Angela Casauay/Sunnex)