Voter registration in Lanao Sur: ‘My daughter is 18 years old’

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews/09 July) — Flying registrants, the clustering of registration centers, and minors trying to register plagued the first day of the re-registration of voters in Lanao del Sur, an election official said today.

Commission on Elections Commissioner Armando Velasco chanced upon a minor, a girl lining up to register at a registration center in Barangay Lower Dansalan, Marawi City on Monday, the first day of registration.

MONITORING. Comelec Commissioner Arman Velasco comes out from a heavily guarded registration center in Barangay Lower Dansalan in Marawi City on July 9, 2012. The Comelec expects to rid 30 percent of the fictitious voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the ongoing re-registration of voters.. MindaNews photo by Froilan GallardoAsked by Velasco of her age, the girl’s mother, who was also on the line, answered for her saying she was 18 year old. The child remained silent when asked by Velasco of her birth date.

The official said he was unconvinced but did not arrest or reprimand the mother and child.

Instead, he asked the election officer in charge of the registration to mark the suspected minor’s paper so it could be scrutinized later.

“We cannot do anything to stop her application. What we do is to demand later for her to show proof,” Velasco said.

He said they are hoping to trim down the list of voters in Lanao del Sur from 520,000 to 350,000.

“We will be happy if we can pull down the number by 30 percent. If it goes up we will be in trouble,” he said.

But the clustering of registration centers may affect the task of ridding the list in Lanao del Sur of fake registrants in addition to the presence of people from outlying provinces like Lanao del Norte and Misamis Oriental coming to Marawi City as resident voters.

In Amai Pakpak Elementary School in downtown Marawi City, groups of registrants came and were seen coaching each other when they filled up their Comelec papers.

One of them was overheard saying, “Remember we are already in Lanao del Sur not Lanao del Norte.”

Flying voters from Lanao del Norte became an issue after a grenade bombing incident in Marawi City killing one and injuring 20 people in 2009.

Besides flying voters, Velasco said they also face a problem with their decision to cluster some of the registration centers.

He said they are closely monitoring the clustered registration centers in the towns of Kapai, Maguing, Pecong and Malabang.

He said their decision to cluster the registration centers was an offshoot of their study that some of the precincts have few voters or were too far away to manage.

“But many politicians are complaining that the clustering of centers could bring more harm to them because the new registration centers are located in places where there are rido disputes or intense political rivalries,” Velasco said.

Responding to criticisms that flying voters and minors were able to register on the first day, Velasco urged political parties and concerned citizens to file their complaints on or before August 16. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)