Minor issue in ARMM voter registration not so minorBy Julie Alipala
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes has confirmed that quite a number of minors signed up as voters on the first two days of a general re-registration of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that got underway on Monday and will continue through July 18.
The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting was the first to call public attention to the registration anomaly in Maguindanao, but Brillantes said in an interview here late Tuesday that he witnessed the same irregularity in Tawi-Tawi earlier in the day.
Brillantes said minors as young as 14 had shown up at various precincts and filled out voter registration forms.
“I visited several registration centers. In two centers in Simunul, I saw registrants who did not even look like they were 18 already. They told me they were 22. I jested that the people of Simunul look way younger than their actual ages because they look 14 to me,” he said.
Brillantes said the problem was not isolated because in one precinct alone, where he stayed for some 10 minutes, at least five minors showed up.
He said his instruction to Comelec personnel manning the registration centers was to accept the registrants anyway. He said this would save them time spent questioning or arguing with illegal registrants.
“They should accept the forms and issue a receipt. We have a scheme to disqualify them later,” he said.
Brillantes did not say what exactly this scheme was but in an earlier interview, he said the biometrics system would help in weeding out unqualified registrants although “we have to follow certain legal procedures to eliminate minor registrants.”
Brillantes said he wanted to find out how rampant and widespread the registration of minors in the ARMM was.
He said village officials played a role in this fraud although they had been properly warned.
“This appears to be the culture here in the ARMM. The barangay officials feel they were obligated to bring voters to the registration centers,” he said.
Brillantes said there is a law prohibiting barangay or community officials from accompanying voters during the registration process or from filling out forms on behalf of the registrant.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Brillantes said, 75,000 had registered throughout the region.
“If this trend continues, there would be about 750,000 registered at the end of the 10-day process. This is very low compared to the old voters’ list which showed the ARMM had 1.7 million voters,” he said.
Brillantes said that judging by the trend, the figure of 1.7 million voters on the canceled list was “really bloated.”