Residency of 4,000 voters in Cotabato City questioned

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/ 10 Oct) – Officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) here have their hands full after more than 4,000 newly registered voters have been petitioned for disqualification due to non-residency issue.

The new voters flocked to the city Comelec office since Tuesday to defend their residency qualification bringing with them birth certificates from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Comelec listed over 10,000 new voters in the city, including transferees.

Lawyer Mohammad Samama, acting city election chief, said the Election Regulatory Board (ERB) had started hearing the side of the new registrants for them to explain and prove their residency.

“It has become sensational because of the petition for disqualification and we have limited time to hear the cases,” Samama said.

Sarulah Bansuan, one of the first time voters, said he wanted to exercise his right during the January 21 plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Law.

She rushed to the Comelec office after learning he was one of those petitioned to be delisted from the list of voters.

“I was surprised my name appeared on the social media among those to be delisted, so I came here right away,” she said.

“It’s my freedom, my way my voice to be heard through non-violent action which is the election,” she said.

Those who filed the petitions refused to be named but said “residency mapping of the city showed these people were not actually residents.”

Most of the petitioners are village officials who claimed the new voters are not their constituents.

The names of Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema and Mohagher Iqbal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were among those included as transferees and new registrants, respectively.

“These are normal procedures after ng registration,” Samama explained, citing that registrants don’t automatically qualify as voters.

“This ERB hearing is the opportunity to defend their application or for other parties to oppose for their application,” he added.

He said the new registrants who may be delisted for non-appearance during the ERB hearing may file petition for inclusion before the local courts.

The Comelec scheduled 1,400 registrants to a two-day ERB hearing but only 200 showed up. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)