ARMM’s Hataman warns pols and “flying” registrants: cheat and we will sue you

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews/30 June) – OIC Governor Mujiv Hataman has warned politicians and potential “flying” registrants that cases would be filed against them should they cheat in the   general registration of voters on July 9 to 18.

Hataman told the Forum on Partnership Building for Lanao del Sur Electoral Reform Initiatives held at Kampo Ranao last Friday that checkpoints will be set up and manned not by the local police but by the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Forces and the military, to check if, indeed the passengers entering the province are residents of the area, if they know how to speak Maranao or they are part of the “hakot” (hauling) system.

“Kung sa tingin natin merong magpapatunay na sila’y hinakot lang ng ilang politiko, magpasensyahan po tayo dahil gagawin namin ang  lahat na legal upang paparusahan ang dapat parusahan” (If it can be proven that they were just hauled by some politicians, sorry but we will do all legal means possible to punish those who must be punished,” Hataman said.

“Magsasampol tayo at magkakaso tayo dahil ito din utos ng ating Pangulo,” (We’ll make you a sample and we’ll file charges), he asid.

Joint Resolution No. 3 signed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., and approved by President Benigno S. Aquino annulled the voters’ list in the ARMM provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan, citing among others, the “presence of hundreds of thousands of illegal and fictitious registrants in the ARMM which needs to be deleted.”

Comelec’s website gave two figures on the number of voters in the ARMM: 1.81 million as of  the 2010 elections and August 10, 2011, and  1.77 million, according to a press release by the poll body’s Education and Information Department.

Hataman warned potential “flying” registrants – those who come from other provinces or other towns who will register as voter in the place of the politicians who paid them to register —  that they will lose their registration in their original places of  registration and will face charges as well.

In his welcome remarks, Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong, Jr. urged residents in neighboring provinces not to enter the province “kung ang purpose lang nila ay magrehistro dito dahil malaki daw ang bigayan dito” (if their only purpose is to register here because the payment is reportedly higher here).

“Kung meron man yana, sana babaguhin natin lahat ngayon .. upang ang sambayanang Pilipino makita naman nila na tayong mga Muslim hindi tayo ganon . Ginagawa tayong cheating capital ng Pilipinas. Ipapakita nating hindi totoo yan” (If that is true, we should change that now .. so that the Philppines will see that we, Muslims, are not like that. We are being made the cheating capital of the Philippines. Let us show them that is not true), Adiong said.

Adiong had told a press conference with Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo in Davao City on June 19 that they want a clean registration process in Lanao del Sur, adding that he expects the number of voters pegged at 523,000 in 2010, to go down by 30% to 40% under a new listing.

Hataman, who spoke after Adiong in Friday’s forum, acknowledged Lanao del Sur’s reputation of having “flying” registrants and voters because its politicians give the highest pay to voters to win a post but he added there are “flying” registrants and voters in the rest of the region as well.

He also acknowledged  the efforts of the provincial governor to support electoral reforms.

Addressing the crowd of mayors and civil society representatives, Hataman said, “mabuti sa inyo pera pera lang. Pagdating sa amin, buhay buhay lang ang labanan lalong-lalo na sa  bahagi ng Basilan, Sulut at Tawi-tawi. Kaya di ako nagtataka kung bakit maraming Maranao ang nagpapayaman dahil sa eleksyon. Mas gusto ko yan kaysa sa amin .. na nagpapadami ng baril bilang paghahanda sa panahon ng eleksyon” (Good for you, it’s just money. In our case, it’s a fight for life, especially in Basilan, Sulu and tawi-tawi. That is why I am not surprised why many Maranao want to enrich themselves for the elections. I prefer that to ours where many are storing firearms to prepare for the elections).

Hataman,  a former Anak Mindanaw (AMin) party-list representative,  said everyone who runs  for an elective post wants to win but he hopes this time voters will distinguish between those who want to win because they want to serve the people and those who want to win simply to be in power but will not serve the people.

He said he does not want ARMM forever seen by politicians nationwide as a marketplace for votes.

The ARMM has repeatedly been dubbed “cheating capital” of Philippine elections, a “vote bank” for those who want to be President, Vice President and Senator, and a “reservoir” for votes for those who want to win the post or lead the race through the “dagdag-bawas” (vote adding and vote shaving) scheme.

The May 2013 synchronizes the national mid-term polls for senators, local elections for governors, mayors, representatives to Congress and local legislative members, and the ARMM’s seventh election in its 22-year old history.

Commissioner Armando Velasco said Comelec personnel from various parts of the country will be deployed in the ARMM for the registration.

Lanao del Sur provincial police chief Romeo Magsalos said they will be strict at the checkpoints to ensure “illegal non-residents” cannot register. But he said the inspections at the checkpoint will be done “without violating the constitutional rights of residents to travel.”

Col. Daniel Lucero, commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade, told MindaNews they plan to  install CCTV cameras to ensure clean registration.

Provincial Election Supervisor Nasib Yasin said he would resign his post if the registration is not clean.  He said they will try to “prevent at all cost” the entry of “flying registrants” and  told reporters after the forum that he would borrow from what Lucero said, “if you plan to  cheat, we are three steps ahead of you.”

Lucero appealed to the media to help monitor the registratior.

He also said there appears to be a “concerted effort to  malign our image, to demonize us so they can get rid of us.”

OIC Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc appealed to students of the Mindanao State University (MSU) where she took her oath as a member of the Board of Regents as  chair of the RLA’s  Committee on Education, not to allow themselves to be used by politicians.

She urged students not to trade off their youth, their idealism for 500 pesos or 1,000 pesos, the amount used to get students who are enrolled in MSU but are from outside Lanao del Sur, to register or vote.

Lucero said, “it’s 6,000 now,” to which Gutoc replied, “dollars na pala.”   (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)