Maguindanao’s new gov wants special census: "physical count of people, one by one”

BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/16 May) – Governor-elect Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu is requesting the National Statistics Office (NSO) to have a special census for Maguindanao.

“I want a physical count ng mga tao (of people). One by one,” Mangudadatu said.

“Hindi naman ito (This is not about) vengeance,” he told MindaNews late Saturday afternoon in his brother’s residence. “Niloloko nila yung gobyerno eh” (they’re fooling government), he said.

Mangudadatu was referring to questionable data on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which includes Maguindanao, during the census of 2000 and 2007.

Faulty data affects, among others, the “votes, the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), support from the international funding agencies and other projects,” he says.

“This is not just overhauling. We want a total landscaping,” says Mangudadatu, 41, who, along with Vice Governor-elect Ismael “Dustin” Mastura, 39, ran on the platform of health and education, livelihood through plant now pay later schemes and support for the peace process.

Mangudadatu told MindaNews they would ask the NSO through its Provincial Statistics Officer, Razulden A Mangelen, for a special census. He said Mangelen would meet with him on Monday, May 17.

May 17 is Day 1 of the 2010 Census of Population and Housing (CPH), the 13th census of population and the 6th census of housing in the country.

A press statement from the NSO said census-taking will run for around 23 days.

About 85 thousand census personnel including enumerators, team supervisors, census area supervisors, and assistant census area supervisors will be mobilized for the nationwide undertaking, it said.

“Professionally done”

A demographer told MindaNews the ongoing NSO census is actually “physical counting” as Mangudadatu wants it to be. But the demographer says Mangudadatu apparently means he wants the census in Maguindanao “professionally done,” that census enumerators actually go to the households and not rely on what barangay officials say.

Questions had earlier been raised about the population in Maguindanao, with towns divided into smaller towns but whose populations remain huge. But these have remained unanswered especially in barangays controlled by the Ampatuans.

A conference of the Philippine Population Association in Metro Manila in early February this year confirmed earlier doubts about the integrity of the 2007 population census in the ARMM.

“Outright fraud, political pressure, and security threats marred the 2007 population census in the region, according to government statistics officials and demographers,” the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported.

PCIJ noted that while overall population growth in the country is slowing. In the ARMM, it “proved to be a big exception. It expanded faster in the 2000-2007 period compared to the average of 3.75 percent between 1995 and 2000, PCIJ said.”

The PCIJ said NSO chief Carmelita Ericta, one of conference’s plenary speakers, admitted there were numerous problems in doing the ARMM census in 2007.

Security concerns

“Actually the ARMM results have undergone internal evaluation,” Ericta said during the open forum following her presentation. “The initial results were much worse but we had no way of going back and verifying for ourselves because of security concerns.”

She told PCIJ they had to weed out questionable data as part of a careful review of initial results that suggested population in the region grew by about 10 percent each year since 2000.

“A little bit harder to tackle were cases of pressure coming from powerful local leaders who are keen to see populations soar in order to seek bigger revenue allotments, the creation of new towns or congressional districts, and more votes to command during elections. Mayors chair the local census coordination board, which is supposed to sign on to the results of the census in the towns and cities,” Ericta was quoted as saying.

“Even at my level, there are attempts,” to press for higher population numbers, Ericta said. “Mayors, governors, senators (demand it) because it affects legislation, especially if they want to create (new territories),” she said.

Ericta noted that while no census-taker has been killed for refusing to accommodate local leaders’ requests, some had been subjected to threats. “In some cases, they were refused entry,” into a community, she said.

“In some cases, they (local leaders) want to influence the results. That is part of the risk we take in census-taking,” the PCIJ quoted Ericta as saying.

Ericta said they also heard about cases where local officials in the ARMM actively encouraged former residents to come home for a visit to temporarily boost population numbers during census-taking.

“It’s not the only place where they do that,” she said. But she noted that officials in ARMM “have a tendency to call their people and ask them to be there for the census.”

More 18 –year olds

A poster presentation during the conference showed that in Maguindanao, in the 2000 census,there were “more 18 years old than any other age below 18, except age 10.”
The voting age is 18.

In Barangay Limpongo, Shariff Aguak, data results show there were “no children under 2 years old.”

The NSO press statement said that as provided for by Section 7 of Batas Pambansa72, public school teachers will serve as enumerators in the decennial census.

“They will play the major role of gathering and accomplishing the census forms. Thus, last April, even prior to the national election, they already underwent a week of extensive training to ensure that the information that they will collect are correct, complete and strictly in accordance with the instructions, concepts and definitions as discussed in the 2010 CPH Enumerator’s Manual,” the NSO press statement said.

Inventory

“The census will take an inventory of the total population and housing units and collect information about its demographic, social and economic characteristics as of May 1, 2010 (12:01 a.m.) through personal interview in the 42,023 barangays or about 65,000 enumeration areas in the country. For easy recognition, enumerators, majority of them are public school teachers from the Department of Education, will be wearing official 2010 CPH identification cards as they knock on every housing unit and interview each household,” the NSO press statement said.

“The interview will take only about 15 to 30 minutes. We would like to assure everybody that all information from the census will be held strictly confidential as guaranteed by Section 4 of Commonwealth Act No. 591 and Section 9 of BP 72. What the NSO publishes are only summaries of statistical tables in which no reference whatsoever will be made to particular individuals or households.”

Included in the census are all residents of the country, both Filipinos and foreigners, who have stayed or are expected to stay for at least a year in the Philippines and their dwellings. Also included are Filipino overseas workers who are away as of May 1 but are expected to be back within five years.

The NSO said the first official census in the Philippines was carried out in 1878 by the Spanish colonial government. That census yielded a count of 5,567,685 persons living in the archipelago as of December 31, 1877.

In the last census of its kind in the country conducted in May 2000, the country’s population was placed at 76.5 million. In the 2007 census, the population was pegged at 88.5 million, 21.5 million of that in Mindanao, 4.1 million of that in the ARMM and 1.27 million of that from Maguindanao. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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