Thursday, 9 February 2012

ARMM Electoral Reforms by Fr. Jun Mercado OMI

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), rightly or wrongly, is perceived to be the electoral cheating capital of the Philippines. All, from the President down to the regular Abdul, speak of ghost voters, ghost precincts and prefabricated electoral results that include the manufactured certificates of canvass.
This perception is one of the major reasons for the cancellation of the ARMM elections in 2011, over and above the overt reason stated in the law, RA 10153, that seeks to synchronize the ARMM elections with the mid-term national elections in 2013.

Confronting electoral reforms in the ARMM is NOT a joke. It is, often, compared with gargantuan and radical reforms that involve the purging of the voters' lists with all ghosts; the use of biometrics for all ARMM registered voters (100%) and the interface of biometrics with the use of appropriate technology that would only allow actual voting of real and physically present voters.
For the past weeks, there is a continuing dialogue with the Commission on Elections or COMELEC (at the highest level) that involves the ARMM and LGU Officials, CSOs and electoral citizens’ monitor groups in order to map the desired electoral reforms. Now, there is unanimity to ensure honest and credible elections as the centerpiece of the ARMM reforms as a joint legacy of the PNoy Administration and the newly installed OIC officials under Governor Mujiv Hataman
Paramount to electoral reforms is to achieve a 100% biometrics scheme for all the voters in the ARMM. Then there is the call to interface the biometrics with the actual registered voters on Election Day. This would only be possible when 100% biometrics is achieved for all ARMM voters. At present, 89% of the actual registered voters have biometrics. This number, however, needs further verification in order to delete voters with double registration or discrepancies in their biometrics – either with wrong photos or other errors in entries. The failure of voters to vote twice in elections are also grounds for deletion following a due process
COMELEC claims that it can achieve the purging of the registered voters, the 100% biometrics for all registered voters, and the interface between biometrics records with actual voters if given appropriate budget to acquire new technology to pilot in the ARMM in 2013 mid-term national elections in view of the use of biometrics in the 2016 National Elections.
To summarize, the growing consensus on ARMM Electoral Reforms would consist of the following: First, the purging of the voters' list of all ghosts, deaths, minor registrations and double registrations; second, the 100% biometrics for all registered voters in the ARMM; and third, the actual interface of the biometrics with the actual voters on election day (the first time to be used in the Philippines), a sort of new technology to be piloted in the ARMM in 2013 for the possible nationwide use for the 2016 general elections.
These reforms now enjoy initial consensus points between the COMELEC, ARMM officials, CSO and Election Monitors. The consensus points would be presented to the ARMM constituency for discussion in the scheduled election summit on February 27, 2012.
With all eyes focussed on the ARMM, particularly on the electoral reforms, the conduct of electoral processes would be very interesting and exciting. The 2013 conduct of elections in the ARMM would be the centerpiece of real exercise of democracy and empowerment.
This early, I can say that all sectors – COMELEC, National Government, ARMM and LGU officials, CSOs and Election Monitors – are one in working together to make the 2013 ARMM elections a showcase of electoral reforms.

''The truth might be hard to say, painful to bear or even drastic for the truth sayer but still needed to be said''. ALISON.

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