Palace urges new registration of voters in ARMM
MANILA, Philippines–The Aquino administration wants the Commission on Elections to scrap existing voter lists and conduct a general re-registration of voters in the five provinces that make up the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao even if it would cost almost half a billion pesos.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said P430 million to P450 million is a small price to pay to ensure cleansed voter lists in the region that is notorious for wholesale electoral fraud.
Abad made the statement after President Aquino and several Cabinet members met with Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes and ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman to discuss the latest National Statistics Office figures that show the region has had a bloated population over the years.
“To demonstrate how serious this government is in making sure that the electoral process is clean and legitimate, it’s doing this cleansing process,” Abad told reporters after the meeting.
“So it’s a small investment compared to the value of the restoring the credibility of the electoral process in ARMM, which, as we all know, is closely linked to political stability in that region,” he added.
Brillantes told reporters that the annulment of the voters’ registration and the general re-registration would have to be completed by December this year so that it can start printing ballots as scheduled in January.
He indicated during the meeting that the Comelec would be hard-pressed to meet the deadline.
Brillantes said the Comelec would meet on Wednesday afternoon to determine if the annulment of the ARMM voter lists and a new general voter registration are feasible.
“What else can you conclude from the statistics that the National Statistics Office already presented to us? That’s really an unbelievable situation,” Abad said. “We recognize the independence of the Comelec as a separate constitutional branch but we are making the appeal to them to make the extra sacrifice.”
Saying the ARMM was a failed experiment in autonomy owing to graft in the regional bureaucracy and the electoral fraud committed every election, the Aquino administration successfully lobbied last year in Congress for a law that would synchronize the ARMM elections with the national elections in 2013.
President Aquino appointed a set of ARMM officers-in-charge, including an acting governor, to initiate reforms in the region before the 2013 elections.