Namfrel warns Comelec vs ‘surge’ in poll registrants

Namfrel warns Comelec vs ‘surge’ in poll registrants
By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines – There is a surge in the number of voters registered for the May 10 elections compared to the 2007 polls, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) claimed Tuesday, as it warned the Commission on Elections that the computerized voters’ list (CVL) that it would be using was “unreliable.”

Through its “Bantay ng Bayan” project, Namfrel disclosed that there was a 12.65 percent increase in the number of voters registered for the May 2010 polls or 50 million, said Jose Cuisia Jr., Namfrel chairman.

Cuisia said that applying the National Census and Statistics Board annual average population growth rate, “the increase in registered voters from the last elections should be between six and eight percent only not 12.65 percent.”

Cuisia said this “significant difference in increase indicate a large number of registrants, meaning the CVL has not been cleaned up. We estimate the overlisting can be up to three million names, assuming the 2007 list was clean and accurate.”

The “CVL is one of [the] weak links in the May polls. A reliable CVL is guardian of the one person, one vote process and to ensure that it has no duplicate names and minors or deceased voters,” said Cuisia.

Cuisia cited Namfrel’s discovery that there were 36 voters with identical names in Oriental Mindoro, 10 in two towns of Lanao del Norte, and an undetermined number in Ilocos Sur.

He also cited the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where a 42 percent increase of enlisted voters from 2007 to 2010 was noted.

“Every province in ARMM recorded an increase higher than the national average. Maguindanao province alone registered 82 percent increase in registered voters, following a 21 percent drop from the 2004 to 2007 elections,” he said.

Damaso Magbual, Namfrel membership committee chairman, said that Comelec was inefficient in purging the voters’ list through an expensive computer program.

He noted how Bangladesh cleaned its voters’ list at a cost of P0.80 per voter.

“If the Comelec valued our assistance to purge the voters’ list, we could have done that a long time ago. We ask them for a voters’ list and they charged us P15 per page of the computerized list of the voters. They make it too expensive for us to help them,” said Magbual.

“The last final resort should be an honest to goodness indelible ink on Election Day. Here, voters can take off their indelible ink in a day, while in Afghanistan the ink stays for 33 days,” said Magbual.

“Having a reliable indelible ink that cannot be easily removed on Election Day is vital,” said Namfrel’s Guillermo Luz.

“It is too late to clean the list right now because we have procedures so the only way is to have a reliable indelible ink to ensure a person can only vote once, even if his name is listed in 20 polling precincts,” he said.

Cuisia denied allegations that they were creating a scenario of a failure of elections, saying this is their way to help ensure clean and honest elections.

“We cannot afford a failure of elections that is why we are sounding out these concerns to identify problems and remedies. Despite non-accreditation, our will to volunteer to help Comelec shows our will to help the country,” said Luz.

Luz and Cuisia urged voters to check as early as this month, their names and precinct assignments with their municipal election offices.

Luz also urged Comelec to issue out detailed guidelines for the contingency measures to prevent fraud in the May polls.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.