MANILA, Philippines—More than 1.8 million new voters–more than twice the expected turnout–registered in last month’s special registration for the coming barangay elections and the Commission on Elections might not have enough time to conduct a thorough purge of illegal registrants, a Comelec official said Friday.
Comelec commissioner Grace Padaca said there was not enough time to screen the 1,805,917 new registrants using the Comelec’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) even as last month’s registration was marred by allegations that politicians used the “hakot” system or herded their supporters to register.
Besides the 1.8 million new registrants, there were also 519,086 voters who transferred to another precinct, 121,367 who reactivated their registration records, and 672 who reinstated their registration records in the list of voters.
“We’ve talked about that in the en banc that it will be difficult to do the AFIS checking now. We cannot do it at this phase of the elections,” Padaca said in an interview.
“The verification would have to be done all over the country so it takes a lot of time. We’re talking of 1.8 million (who registered) and 519,000 transferees. That alone is 2.3 million already,” she added.
Padaca explained that “it would be very difficult” to use the AFIS to cleanse the list of new registrants before the elections on October 28 because the data of these new registrants would still have to encoded.
“For purposes of the barangay elections, it would be difficult to do. There is not enough time. How could you have expected this large influx, its sheer volume,” she said.
Padaca said the list would have to be screened by the local Election Registration Boards (ERBs) relying on complaints filed against suspected by suspected illegal registrants.
“So it would just be the ERB that will screen them. But realistically also, who will do that? It’s the opposing candidates. I don’t know if it’s normal for us to expect that the opposition will come from an ordinary voter,” she said.
However, the deadline for the filing of oppositions against illegal registrants before ERBs already lapsed on Thursday.
With not enough time to purse the list of new registrants sing the AFIS, Padaca said the Comelec en banc would discuss measures on how to screen flying voters and other illegal registrants.
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. earlier said that the commission had expected new registrants to number only 800,000 “at the most.” The regions with the highest number of new registrants were Southern Tagalog (309,049), Central Luzon (193,323), Metro Manila (143,301), Western Visayas (134,545), and Central Visayas (129,557).
Padaca said the unexpected heavy turnout in last month’s special registration occurred mostly in urban areas.
“In the provinces, not so much. We had a briefing with the (Department of Interior and Local Government) and they said that there are barangays (in urban areas) with (Internal Revenue Allotment) shares reaching P78 million. So, that’s a big thing,” she said.