Slow-paced voters’ registration? Not in Sultan Kudarat town

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao (MindaNews/10 July) –  While voters in other areas in Maguindanao are complaining about the slow pace of  the registration process, those in Barangay Dalumangcob are not.

The pace of registration for Dalumangcob residents at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office on the second floor of the town hall — the same floor as the mayor’s office —  is so fast  that it is  “very difficult to imagine,” James Jimenez, spokesperson of the Commission on Elections, said.

The Comelec Office here registered 389 applicants from Barangay Dalumangcob on Monday, Day One of the 10-day registration period, Kurals Dali, election officer, told MindaNews.  As of 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday, 269 had registered, she said.

MindaNews computed that for an eight-hour period, the registration of 389 persons took all of 1.23 minutes each from the time the applicants, carrying their completed application forms, are called to enter the office.

Day One’s 389 is more than twice the 170 per day that the Comelec had earlier estimated.

Jimenez said the processing rate “depends on speed of turnover of individual applicants.” But 389 is “very difficult to imagine” unless the voting registration center has more than one voters registration machine (VRM), he told MindaNews in a text message late Tuesday afternoon.

The Comelec office has only VRM.

Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim in a press conference Tuesday night acknowledged that 389 is quite high” but added it is “expected” because the barangay has a bigger population. “We hope that in the succeeding days, the number goes down.”

Lim added that if the forms had been filled out and the requirements are complete, the registration process would take “not more than two minutes.”

He said they expect the number of registrants in the Comelec office in Sultan Kudarat to drop on the 4th and 5th day. “It  would be alarming if ganon pa rin sya consistently for the next ten days  na 389 or 350 above .”

Kurals Dali, Sultan Kudarat election officer, told MindaNews that Barangay Dalumangcob, the lone barangay attended to by the Comelec office here, had around 3,000 registered voters before the  Book of Voters in the five-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was annulled.

She said she divided the number of potential registrants, inclusive of those who will turn 18 before the May 2013 elections, by ten days to determine the target number of applicants that should be accommodated per day.

Mario Tabo, Dalumangcob’s barangay chair, was busy supervising the registration of his constituents, moving from the waiting area on the second floor to the Comelec office on the same floor.

Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes on Tuesday warned village officials and police officers not to meddle
inside the registration centers as this is not their job.

“They don’t have business inside the registration centers,” he said, adding that the Comelec will file charges against village officials and police personnel who would interfere in the registration process.

“I personally saw in Tawi-Tawi when I went to one island-municipality there, the barangay official seems to be very active in the recruitment of voters. This is what we would not want to happen.  In fact, I gave a warning in Tawi-tawi that a barangay official should not participate and should not be active in the registration of voters,” he said.

Tabo said his barangay has seven sitios so they devised a way where registration would be by sitio, at the average of at least one a day.

The waiting area has also been arranged to make the flow of registrants easier. Plastic chairs were also made available. As soon as a registrant is called in, the person beside moves to the vacated seat to await his/her turn.

Some 50 persons waited outside the Comelec office shortly before 2 p.m.,  about 30 of them sitting, holding their filled registration forms, while others queued at the stairway.

At the Rebuken Elementary School in Barangay Rebuken, 151 residents registered on Day One while 116 did as of 12 noon on Day Two, Rosalina Go, election officer of Balangiga in Eastern Samar, said. Go was assigned here for the ten-day list-up.

She said they were able to start registration  at 10 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. on Monday because the delivery of supplies was delayed.

Lim, the Commissioner in charge of Maguindanao, told reporters here that in 28 out of 36 towns that had submitted reports, 38,949 persons had applied for registration on Day One while “very partial reports” show 12,111 had registered on Day Two.

Lim said the Comelec estimated the number of registrants at 170 a day. In Kabuntalan town, he said, 160 persons registered on Day One while 200 did on the second day.

Some  voting registration centers (VRCs) average187, some 70, he said, adding, “we hope the figures will stabilize in the coming days.”

Lim also said all voting centers in Maguindanao were functioning as of Day Two. Registration in Datu Unsay town started on Day Two and will continue until July 18, the end of the registration peiod.  There will be no additional day for the list-up in Datu Unsay, he said.

On the reported registration of minors posing as 18 years and above or will turn 18 before the May 2013 polls, Lim said  he saw very young residents lining up. But he also added they have a way of dealing with this situation.  He declined to say how.

Lim reiterated that multiple registrants will not be able to vote in next year’s polls because the Comelec will delete all their registrations.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)