Rise in number of registered voters in Lanao Sur ?statistically improbable?

The NGOs said the current number of registered voters is ‘statistically improbable’ compared to the number of registered voters during the 2004 presidential elections and 2005 elections for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“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 said.

Data from the Commission on Elections showed that there are 396,913 voters who will vote tomorrow. Only 275, 572 voters were registered in the 2004 and 2005 elections.

“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 that rampant cheating will be repeated tomorrow.

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

Dalidig said the politicians bribed municipal election officers with P200 for each ‘flying voter’ they can register.

“These election officers were the ones responsible for the cheating done in the 2004 elections. They were not replaced and look what happened. They are cheating again,” he said.

Dalidig testified before the Senate in 2005 about the alleged manipulation of the results of the 2004 presidential elections in Lanao del Sur.

Ibrahim said the increase in the number of registered voters is only one of the possible indicators that the results of tomorrow’s election will be manipulated again.

He said they have noted that several municipal canvassers were transferred to other areas two days ago.

“This is a game by local politicians who suspect that the canvassers have already made deals with their opponents. They take those canvassers out of the way by paying huge bribes to provincial election officers,” he said.

Ibrahim said there is also the danger of ballot switching since the guarding of the boxes are now left to the care of the local Philippine National Police.

He said most PNP personnel assigned to the towns in Lanao del Sur are ‘loyal’ to incumbent elected officials.

“It is like asking the dogs to watch a tray of food. The temptation is simply irresistible,” he said.

Army soldiers have kept away from the Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol compound where most election paraphernalia were distributed this afternoon.

Instead, teams of police officers were providing security to the municipal election officers who were bringing the paraphernalia and the ballot boxes.

At least four foreign observers have arrived to monitor the conduct of elections here tomorrow.