MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/16 July) — The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) has joined the call for setting up of voters’ registration outside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to accommodate ARMM voters who are temporarily outside of the region.
“PCID believes in the democratic right of Muslims to participate in the electoral process. Having engaged in electoral reform work with PPCRV in the past, it joins the campaign for honest, orderly, peaceful elections. This starts with a credible registration,” the group said in a statement today.
“Bangsamoro have spread themselves in different parts of the archipelago. While they are outside ARMM for school, work and trade and to avoid conflict, they deserve the right to vote,” it added.
PCID said extending the registration will help people who could not go to registration sites due to the clustering of registration precincts owing to the inadequate number of voting machines at only 928 for 2,490 barangays.
The statement said the registrants “have been heavily burdened by the cost of transportation to registration precincts and the significant lack of public transportation.”
“Media reports on sporadic violence and irregularities characteristic of ARMM elections have also discouraged many registrants who chose to forgo registration,” PCID observed.
It cited the killing of a 17-year-old in Lumbac Unayan town, Lanao del Sur “obviously from a registration-related matter” and harassment and other violent incidents blamed on local politicians and their supporters.
“The entire team of election officers in one town in Lanao left their post after gunshots were exchanged between supporters of rival politicians,” the PCID, quoting media reports, said.
“Registrants with questionable identification and qualifications, numbering close to 6 million according to the COMELEC (Commission on Elections), have been spotted in Tawi-Tawi and Lanao del Sur,” it added.
ARMM comprises the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Marawi, Isabela and Lamitan.
PCID lamented that with only two days to go into the completion of the 10-day ARMM voters’ registration, “little has been done to address old yet persisting fraudulent practices despite calls from the national government to curb such irregularities.”
ARMM has earned the unsavory reputation of being the country’s election cheating capital owing to reports of massive poll irregularities in addition to armed hostilities between rival political families.
This situation provided the backdrop to the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre where 58 people were killed as an offshoot of the rivalry between two political clans in Maguindanao.
In that incident relatives of then Buluan vice mayor and now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu were massacred along with 32 media workers and other individuals on their way to Shariff Aguak town to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for the 2010 elections.
Former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and four of his sons were implicated as the alleged masterminds of the carnage. (MindaNews)