Cost of electoral reform in ARMM: P850M
COTABATO CITY—It would cost nearly a billion pesos to nullify the entire list of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and replace it with a new one, the chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said.
The expense, however, was necessary to end decades of electoral fraud in the region, said Comelec Chief Sixto Brillantes, a former election lawyer.
Brillantes said it would cost P450 million if Comelec proceeded with regular registration of voters in the ARMM and at least P850 million if Comelec did away with the old registration process and instead nullified the region’s voters’ list and put in place a registration system using modern technology.
He said, however, that trashing the existing voters’ list was a necessary first step toward electoral reform in the ARMM.
Comelec, he said, would use a process of registration using biometrics, or technology that would keep track of voter identity through fingerprints or other unalterable marks.
Past elections in the ARMM have been replete with reports of so-called flying voters being employed for massive fraud by politicians who have amassed enough stolen wealth to finance election cheating.
This was used allegedly in 2004 to ensure the victory of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she ran for a regular six-year term after taking over deposed ruler Joseph Estrada, who was convicted of plunder but pardoned by Arroyo before he could start serving his life sentence.
It was also in the ARMM where the then Arroyo administration obtained a 12-0 sweep by its senatorial candidates in the 2007 elections with many candidates from the opposition receiving zero votes.
The new registration system in the ARMM, Brillantes said, would be a “pilot project.” “When it turns out successful, we will use the same process in preparation for the 2016 presidential elections,” he said.
Mujiv Hataman, acting ARMM governor, and other officials support the Comelec project, said Brillantes.
A group calling itself Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms, however, said the government might not have enough funds for the project.
The group supported the position of Dustin Mastura, Maguindanao vice governor, who said “it would be better to just proceed with the continuing registration.”
Brillantes said a purge of voters’ list was the only way to make the ARMM elections credible.
President Aquino lobbied strongly in Congress to postpone the elections scheduled in the ARMM in August last year to pave the way for the appointment of officers in charge and reforms.
The next elections in the region would be held simultaneous with national elections next year. Charlie C. Señase, Inquirer Mindanao
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.