Gov says 2007 polls to prove ARMM is no “cheating region”

At the close of the voting at 3 p.m,  the Philippine National Police in the ARMM recorded only a few incidents: a shooting incident that killed one and injured two others in Cddayan, Akbar town in Basilan; a grenade lobbed in Barangay Galakit, Pagalungan town in Maguindanao that injured one; an explosion that injured one in Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat town in Shariff Kabunsuan; and two explosions outside the Dalican Pilot Elementary School in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan at around 7:25 a.m. which injured no one

ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan 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

But victory in the region that figured prominently in the “Hello Garci” controversy on alleged electoral fraud in the 2004 Presidential polls, may again be hounded by yet another controversy: non-governmental organizations on Sunday said the increase in number of registered voters in Lanao del Sur from 275,572 in 2004 to 396,913 or an increase of 121,341 is “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 last Sunday..

“Where did those 100,000 plus voters come from?” Ibrahim asked.

Hadji Abdullah Dalidig, the controversial National Movement for Clean and Free Elections (Namfrel) officer in Lanao del Sur, said the significant increase of registered voters means rampant cheating was to be expected by Monday.

He said unscrupulous local politicians brought in ‘flying voters’ from Lanao del Norte and Misamis Oriental provinces and made them register in Lanao del Sur.

The problem of multiple registrants, also known as “flying voters,” is not new.

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, Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang 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 had said then that a list of multiple registrants would be furnished election officials in the ARMM so that when a multiple voter attempts to cast his or her vote, this can be contested.

“They may attempt to but if they are confronted… If you were a double registrant, if confronted, would you still insist?”

But 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 shortly after he voted, Ampatuan 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.”

“I think we can ask Comelec. The problem is already with them,” he said.

Ampatuan 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)