COTABATO CITY—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has disqualified 280,077 people from voting in next year’s polls in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which has been derisively called the country’s cheating capital during elections.
The number represented more than 30 percent of the voters’ list in the ARMM, ground zero of “dagdag-bawas” in the 2004 and 2007 polls. The region covers the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Rey Sumalipao, ARMM elections director, said in a radio interview here on Monday that 250,773 voters’ applicants were found to be double or multiple registrants, or have long been dead, while 29,304 were minors.
The poll body conducted a hearing of the election registration board (ERB) on Nov. 26-30 to determine qualified voters from among those who applied during the general registration of voters on July 9-18. A total of 1,574,294 people showed up and applied to become registered voters.
With the help of the Comelec’s automated fingerprinting identification system (Afis), 280,077 were disqualified and could not cast their votes in next year’s midterm elections, Sumalipao said.
The official said the names of qualified registered voters would be posted in the municipal election offices regionwide on Jan. 13 so they would know where to vote.
The Comelec will also start a voters’ education campaign.
In Manila, acting ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman told the Inquirer that the Comelec report had pegged the number of voters in the region at 1.294 million from the 1.882 million in 2010.
“The (hearing) results are very revealing because these confirm everybody’s suspicion that the voters’ list has been bloated. This general registration should correct any manipulation made during the previous general registration under the past administration,” Hataman said.
He said the Comelec would continue to pursue the groups responsible for padding the list with dead, underage and multiple voters. “I hope that with the cleanup of our voters’ list, we will be able to restore the good name of the ARMM and its people,” he added.
Hataman said the use of the Afis was instrumental in culling the voters’ list of multiple registrants. “The use of this technology should assure the integrity of the election results in our region,” he said.
Based on data gathered from the Comelec, the ARMM had only 1.054 million voters in 2004. The figure jumped by nearly 50 percent to 1.504 million in 2007 and another 25 percent to 1.882 in 2010—the fastest growing voters’ population among the 17 regions.
The country’s voting population was 50.723 million as of 2010, up by 12.6 percent from 45.029 million in 2007.
Hataman noted that the purge of the ARMM voters’ list was one of the main reasons for the postponement of elections in the region scheduled in 2011 and synchronizing them with the 2013 midterm elections.
“I believe we have achieved one of the goals set by the President when he deferred to ARMM election to initiate reforms in the region. We couldn’t have done it without the determination of our President and the new management in the Comelec,” he said.