Aquino insists on new ARMM voters’ list
President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday stood firm on his position to invalidate the entire voters’ list of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to pave the way for massive reforms in the resource rich but impoverished Muslim region.
The President said a new registration of voters was needed in ARMM to ensure clean elections in the region that the Aquino administration wants to free from the control of political warlords that have been used as tools for election fraud in the past.
Aquino’s remarks came weeks after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) denied Malacañang’s request for the annulment of the existing voters’ list to pave the way for a general re-registration in the region. The Comelec cited time constraint as the reason for the denial of the appeal.
“As far as the re-registration is concerned, if you remember we had a talk with the (Comelec) chair wherein we gave him the data that the National Statistics Office (NSO) gave us and we think that’s a very important concern,” the President said.
“Cleansing all of the roads is very important. We understand that there will be moves by both chambers of Congress to reiterate the need for re-registration as far as ARMM is concerned to have credible elections,” he added.
Aquino in March presented Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes with figures from the NSO suggesting bloated population figures that would justify concluding that voters’ lists in the region have been padded.
NSO administrator Carmelita Ericta said during the meeting that while the population in the ARMM was 4.1 million in 2007, a revalidation of the figures in 2010 pegged the figure at only a little more than 3.3 million.
Ericta also said that while the entire country’s population grew by just 1.89 percent between 2000 to 2007, the ARMM reported a population growth rate of 5.46 percent. Maguindanao had the biggest population growth rate at 6.6 percent and is followed by Basilan at 6.44 percent.
“The point is you will look for ways and means if a compromise is needed, a way that isn’t too much of a compromise. I think I will be coming up with a statement soon,” Aquino said.
“We will reiterate that there is a necessity to ensure that the voters’ lists are actual and correct especially as far as ARMM is concerned,” he added.
The region has gained notoriety for election fraud, the most recent of which were the results of the 2007 elections during which several candidates for senator of the then opposition against the Arroyo administration got zero votes in ARMM.
The biggest scandal came during the 2004 elections when the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., who ran and lost in the protest-marred 2004 presidential contest, was reported to have obtained zero votes in some ARMM areas.
The scandal opened a can of worms that prompted Congress to investigate and accept cases of impeachment filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now representative and detained on an electoral sabotage case, a nonbailable offense.