#ARMMGenReg: Today in ARMM is the start of change

via Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc-Tomawis

TODAY IN ARMM is the start of change. It is a time when more than one million will go out and register and probably make a difference. Nobody believed it could happen that the voters list can be annulled to pave the way for a new voters’ list reducing the current 1.7 million to hundreds of thousands. This is a tribute to the painstaking effort of people behind the pages ie LACS, IBRA , CCARE and other volunteers who prefer not to shout out their petitions before the COMELEC. I will do it for them.

We recall that only few ARMM political leaders supported the total anullment of voters list. Yet, Ibra sent a petition before the COMELEC calling for annulment of voters list. Citizens Coalition for ARMM elections drew several summit covenants signed by thousands of Moros. We also saw strong support from the Senate and House in a Joint Resolution 17.

Months back, mayors and provincial governors in the ARMM have been opposing such move, which is, for most of them, will only unduly transgress the rights of legitimate voters.

Senators supported the synchronization of elections and the cleansing itself to pave the way for a new, region-wide listing before next year’s synchronized regional, local, and senatorial elections. Senator Franklin Drilon, author of Republic Act 10153, which reset to 2013 the ARMM’s supposed August 8, 2011 polls, once said that the registration of voters in the Visayas and non-ARMM areas of Mindanao should be suspended until August 31, 2012 to enable the COMELEC to deploy sufficient personnel and necessary equipment for the immediate conduct of voters’ registration in the ARMM (mincross).

The other signatories to the joint resolution are Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, Vicente Sotto III, Edgardo Angara, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Antonio Trillanes IV, Pia Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Sergio Osmena III, Ralph Recto, Manuel Lapid, Gregorio Honasan II, Panfilo Lacson, Allan Peter Cayetano, Teofisto Guingona III, Francis Pangilinan, and Loren Legarda.

It was widely perceived earlier that the target of the nullification bid was only Maguindanao province, not the entire ARMM.

Mindanaocross.newt notes “A new registration of voters is necessary in order to achieve the much-needed reforms that the Aquino administration has planned for the country’s poorest region,” Drilon said.

Citing data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) showing a big reduction in population figures in the ARMM, Drilon said there is indeed a need for a total registration of voters in the autonomous region.

“For instance, while the population in the ARMM stood at 4.1 million in 2007, a revalidation conducted by NSO in 2010 revealed only a little more than 3.3 million population,” Drilon explained.

He also cited an overstated 5.46 percent population growth rate in the region between 2000 and 2007, as contrast to the country’s population which grew by only 1.89 percent. He added that the poorest provinces of Maguindanao and Basilan reported the biggest growth rates, at 6.6 percent and 6.44 percent, respectively.

“The electoral history of the ARMM shows that elections results in the ARMM are always questionable and tainted with anomaly and irregularity, chiefly because of the padded book of voters,” said Drilon.

The senator added that the voters’ registration in the region has “national ramification” since votes cast by “ghost voters” can decide the winner not only in the local elections, but also in the national level.

COMELEC Chair Sixto Brillantes in the Social Contracting Forum in ARMM was worried that they could not conduct a reregistration because of financing, time and manpower limitations. Mindanao Cross quotes him saying conducting a general registration also requires a certain period of time due to the processes involved like purchasing data capturing machines, cross-matching the voters’ signatures and fingerprints, and holding hearings for petitions for disqualification of registration and transfer of registration.

The convergence of petitions from ARMM civil society ie CCARE, IMERG, RAN, Ibra Macapanton, Lacs Dalidig and the resolutions from Senate and House sealed the REREGISTRATION track.

COMELEC then passed on June 21 a Resolution on General Registration in ARMM.

Congress Joint Resolution No 3