via Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc-Tomawis
The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) joins the call for setting up of voters’ registration outside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for ARMM voters temporarily outside of ARMM.
PCID believes in the democratic right of Muslims to participate in the electoral process. Having engaged in electoral reform work with PPCRV in the past, it joins the campaign for honest, orderly, peaceful elections. This starts with a credible registration.
Bangsamoro have spread themselves in different parts of the archipelago. While they are outside ARMM for school, work and trade and to avoid conflict, they deserve the right to vote.
PCID affiliates on the ground have reported incidents prompting concerns to extend the registration to ensure a more significant participation especially from those who are finding it difficult to reach registration sites due to the clustering of registration precincts resulting from inadequate number of voting machines at only 928 for 2,490 barangays.
Given this difficulty in access, registrants have been heavily burdened by the cost of transportation to registration precincts and the significant lack of public transportation.
Media reports on sporadic violence and irregularities characteristic of ARMM elections have also discouraged many registrants who chose to forgo registration:
1. A 22-year old was killed in Lumbac Unayan town, Lanao del Sur obviously from a registration-related matter.
2. The entire team of election officers in one town in Lanao left their post after gunshots were exchanged between supporters of rival politicians.
3. Periodic blackouts and the delay in the provision of power generators in some areas in Lanao del Sur have miffed those who wanted to register early but were told to wait for hours.
4. Incidents of harassment towards registration officials by local politicians and their supporters in Maguindanao have been reported.
5. Registrants with questionable identification and qualifications, numbering close to 6 million according to the COMELEC, have been spotted in Tawi-Tawi and Lanao del Sur.
6. The COMELEC and other election watchdogs reported heavy interference from local politicians wanting to control the registration.
Only two days to go into the completion of the 10-day ARMM voters’ registration and little has been done to address old yet persisting fraudulent practices despite calls from the national government to curb such irregularities.
PCID joins NGOs, election watchdogs, and local officials in ARMM in urging the COMELEC to seriously consider extending the registration for another three days to decrease the number of potential voters who may be disenfranchised.
Photo credit: Princess Habibah Diampuan Sarip