Muslim NGO seeks 3 more listing days for ARMM votersBy Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A Muslim nongovernment organization (NGO) on Tuesday called on the Commission on Elections to extend by three days the special voter registration set to end Wednesday in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The Comelec, however, said an extension was unlikely and called on ARMM residents who had not yet done so to register Wednesday, the last day of the 10-day registration period that began on July 9.
In a statement, the Makati City-based Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) urged the Comelec to “seriously consider extending the registration for another three days to decrease the number of potential voters who may be disenfranchised.”
PCID president Amina Rasul said the Comelec should have also allowed registration outside the ARMM areas, since “the Bangsamoro have spread themselves out in different parts of the archipelago. While they are outside the ARMM for school, work and trade and to avoid conflict, they deserve the right to vote” [in the region].
Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the poll agency was not inclined to grant an extension.
“As of our en banc meeting [on Monday], our position is no extension. And I see no reason why it should be extended after all the announcements and preparations,” he said in a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. told reporters on Monday the registration period had been “generally peaceful,” with about 950,000 people having listed up as of Sunday. The Comelec hopes to register between 1.2 million and 1.4 million voters in the ARMM.
While not all registrants appeared to be legitimate, Brillantes said election officers still accepted the applications of those suspected of being underage or of being “flying” voters but would not approve their registration.
“Our people have made notations on their applications. They will be removed from our final listing if found not to be qualified through our automated fingerprint identification system,” Brillantes said.
The PCID said the authorities should have ensured “more significant participation” by ARMM residents, especially those who found it hard to reach any of the only 928 registration sites set up to accommodate 2,490 barangays.
“Given this difficulty in access, registrants have been heavily burdened by the cost of transportation to registration precincts and the significant lack of public transportation,” Rasul said.
She said PCID affiliates had reported incidents that necessitated the extension of the registration.
These included “sporadic violence and irregularities characteristic of ARMM elections” that have discouraged people from trooping to the registration sites.