ARMM election monitor prepares for 2007 polls

The Citizen’s Coalition for the ARMM Elections (CCARE) started such campaign through “Ugnayan Tayo” where it met with concerned local institutions, representatives from the Department of Education, Provincial Election Office, military and Department of Interior and Local Government.

The agenda of the meeting last Wednesday included automation, voter’s education, electoral fraud, vote-buying, harassment and attitudes towards governance.

The meeting did not tackle the “Hello, Garci” controversy which cast doubts on some results of the 2004 election in Lanao del Sur. The provincial NAMFREL chapter and vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda were among those who questioned the results.

“People are only interested during elections. Even candidates are active only after having filed their candidacy,” said newly appointed Provincial Election Supervisor Nasib Yasin, a lawyer based in Lanao del Norte.

He said citizen’s participation must start even during registration.

By virtue of Republic Act 8189, registration should be continuing, but Yasin said they could not conduct the registration because of lack of equipment like cameras and signature pads.

He warned the public the Commission on Elections was conducting preliminary investigations of 4,000 multiple registrants in Lanao del Sur.

“Prosecute the briber and the giver,” Yasin said on vote-buying, acknowledging massive vote-buying in Lanao which ranges between three and 3,000 pesos. “But the problem is who will witness? We must then address the conscience of the electorate.”

Automation in ARMM might be possible, he said, adding it would lessen electoral fraud.

Lt. Col. Luisito Marcelino, Brigade Commander of the 1st Marine Brigade based in Campo Ranao, said the military was usually deputized by the COMELEC in Lanao as board of election inspectors (BEIs).

He acknowledged the need to activate the Task Force H.O.P.E (honest, orderly peaceful elections), which was launched in the last elections.

NGO representative Gaima Masbud said elections had been a game of the moneyed. ”Only those with millions can join elections because of our local electoral practices,” she lamented. (Samira Ali Gutoc/MindaNews)