Comelec’s website stats different from field offices’, not only in ARMM

Exactly how many registered voters does the ARMM have? The other regions?  Why are the answers not the same? Sometimes there are more registered voters according to the website, sometimes there are more based on the regional or local Comelec offices. The discrepancies in the ARMM statistics vary from three to at least 123,823 voters.

The Comelec’s ARMM office had released figures for the May 14 polls were the basis for the local government units and monitoring groups such as the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and its Moro partner organizations in the ARMM.

The regional Comelec office said the ARMM has 1,381,467 million registered voters, broken down as follows: Maguindanao: 212,795; Shariff Kabunsuan, 198,278; Lanao del Sur and Marawi City 396,913; Basilan, 182,020; Sulu, 251,223; and Tawi-tawi, 140,238.

The Comelec website’s 2007 voter statistics, supposedly “as of April 20, 2007” but actually uploaded only very recently (it had not been uploaded as of evening of May 12), said ARMM has 1,504,024 million registered voters or 122,557 more than the ARMM regional office’s figure.

The website said Maguindanao has 336,774 registered voters; Shariff Kabunsuan has  198,280; Lanao del Sur and Marawi have 396,722; Basilan with 181,445; Sulu with 250,571; and Tawi Tawi with 140,232.

ARMM Gov. Datu Zaldy Ampatuan told MindaNews on election day that the ARMM has 1.3 million voters.

Maguindanao has 212,795 voters according to the regional ARMM office and the Maguindanao office of the Comelec.

Maguindanao has 22 towns. Shariff Kabunsuan, which was carved out of Maguindanao in late November 2006, has 11 towns.

The Comelec website’s Maguindanao figure of 336,774, which has been repeatedly used by the Manila media (some even adding that the province has 27 towns), actually includes Cotabato City’s voters which should not be included because the city is not part of the ARMM. The Comelec website put two asterisks supposedly to alert the viewer that the figure excludes Cotabato City but in reality, Cotabato City’s 123,853 voters were included, hence a provincial figure “bloated” by over a hundred thousand.

Without Cotabato City’s 123,853, the website’s total for ARMM should be 1,380,171, less than 1,296 votes compared with the ARMM regional figure.

Cotabato City’s Comelec has a figure of 123,997 registered voters or 144 more than the website’s 123,853.

Basilan’s registered voters in both the ARMM regional office and the website actually include Isabela City’s 42,000 plus when this figure is supposed to be excluded from  Basilan. Isabela, like Cotabato City, is not part of the ARMM.

Take Isabela’s voters (42,198) out of Basilan and the number of Basilan’s registered voters should only be 139,247 for the website figures.

But it’s not only the ARMM that has different statistical data from the website’s.

Comelec’s Southern Mindanao on the eve of the elections gave reporters copies of “electoral statistical data” dated May 11 indicating the region’s registered voters at 2,226,706, broken down as follows: Davao del Sur and Davao City with 1,232,215; Davao del Norte 428,823; Compostela Valley 317,363; and Davao Oriental 248,299.

The Comelec website, however, says the region has 2,226,605 or 101 registered voters less. Davao del Sur and Davao City 1,232,053; Davao del Norte 428,817; Compostela Valley 317,369; Davao Oriental 248,372.

MindaNews sought James Jimenez, national Comelec spokesperson and head of the Education and Information Division (EID) for explanation. In an e-mail to MindaNews May 21 evening, Jimenez said, “I’m working on it. Let you know as soon as I have the answers you need. But just so you know, we’ve already formed a top-level committee to look into the lists.”  

ARMM Governor Ampatuan told MindaNews shortly after voting on May 14 that he expects the administration’s Team Unity to win in the ARMM provinces of  Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-tawi, Basilan, Shariff Kabunsuan and the Islamic City of Marawi

Maguindanao’s delivery of a 12-0 sweep in favor of the Administration’s Team Unity has been questioned by many, especially since a politician from the north topped the slate while a Mindanawon candidate who is a Muslim like the predominantly Muslim populace, landed 12th. Voter-turn out of more than 90% was also questioned as statistically improbable. Datu Unsay town, according to the Maguindanao Comelec, has 10,172 voters. Of t his, 10,150 or 99.78%  reportedly voted. Only 22 did not.

On May 13, non-governmental organizations in Lanao del Sur said the increase in number of registered voters in the province, from 275,572 in 2004 to 396,913 or an increase of 121,341 was “statistically improbable.”

“We are beginning to think that there will always be cheating every time elections are held in Lanao del Sur,” Salic Ibrahim of the Maranao People Development Center had told MindaNews’ Froilan Gallardo on May 13.

In the ARMM elections in August 2005, Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos during a meeting with candidates on July 18, 2005, urged the public and political parties to be vigilant to ensure clean elections in the ARMM, where at least 100,000 multiple registrants had yet to be excluded from the voters’ list

Abalos said that of the “more than 100,000” multiple registrants, only 10,000 had been charged.

But those charged could still vote because they had not been convicted, Bedol told MindaNews in July 2005.

Bedol estimated 120,000 multiple registrants in the ARMM with Maguindanao having a “proportionate share” of “about 30,000,” of which 1,000 were under investigation then.

Abalos said that if the multiple registrant insists on voting, Abalos said, “wala kang magagawa (you can’t do anything) because he’s registered.”

Abalos said political parties were “not moving” in having the list of voters purged of multiple registrants.

Asked about this problem after he voted, the ARMM governor told MindaNews, “actually we have the Comelec to do the proper work and we will give them our trust and confidence to be able to resolve that issue.”

He said this year’s election is crucial in that it will prove that ARMM is not a “cheating region” as alleged.

“We cannot prevent the opinion of the opposition,” he said, adding, “what is important is we can rectify the negative impression that here in the ARMM, there is cheating.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)