ARMM poll watchdog gears for 2010 elections

The voters’ registration in the ARMM will start on the second or third quarter of the year, reports said. 

The Citizens Coalition for Electoral Reforms Inc. (Citizens CARE), a watchdog organized in 2005, has started conducting grassroots-level meetings in ARMM dubbed “Pulong Tayo” (Let’s Meet), in an attempt to bring together and strengthen ties of all the election stakeholders in the region.

The meetings are being implemented in at least a thousand villages in 80 towns in five provinces of ARMM, through the group’s provincial management committee and their volunteer municipal and barangay election 'gurus'

The watchdog has also organized the Local Democracy Council in every province called “Ugnayan Tayo.” 

“It is where election stakeholders discuss issues and lay down solutions to all the problems,” said Citizens CARE chair Salic Ibrahim.

In Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao’s second district, the meetings were held on February 11, Tawi-Tawi on February 13, and Sulu on February 16.   

The Citizens CARE today held Ugnayan Tayo in Maguindanao’s first district and Basilan, also in the ARMM. 

Ibrahim said that during the meetings. the poll volunteers were asked of their commitment for the May 2010 elections in the region.

The watchdog has teamed up with the Commission on Elections, Philippine National Police, military, civil society groups, academe, and other government agencies. 

In 2007, the number of registered voters in ARMM totaled 1.6 million.

Ibrahim said his group is committed to continue and intensify voters’ education, especially in far flung areas, and convince them to get involved in the elections. It will also lobby for the institutionalization of voters’ education in schools. 

The Citizens CARE is the sole implementing agency of the project, “Strengthening Electoral Process through Voter Education and Election Monitoring” (SEPVEEM) in the ARMM.

Now on its second phase, the project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through technical assistance provided by the International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES). 

Citizens CARE has also received financial assistance from the British Embassy in expanding the SEPVEEM project in at least 13 towns from four provinces in the ARMM. 

It also got support from the Canadian Embassy, through which Citizens CARE expanded its reach by holding media and security-focused events. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)