Press Release
May 15, 2012

Senate approves re-listing of voters in ARMM

The Senate today approved on third and final reading a joint resolution nullifying the book of voters of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and directing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct a new general registration of voters in the region.

Joint Resolution No. 17 was co-authored by Senate Finance Committee chairman Franklin M. Drilon and Senate People's Participation chairman Aquilino Pimentel III along with 17 other senators which include Senators Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, Vicente Sotto III, Edgardo Angara, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Antonio Trillanes IV, Pia Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Sergio Osmena III, Ralph Recto, Manuel Lapid, Gregorio Honasan II, Panfilo Lacson, Allan Peter Cayetano, Teofisto Guingona III, Francis Pangilinan, Ramon Revilla, Jr., and Loren Legarda.

Under the resolution, which was certified as urgent measure by the President, the Comelec is also authorized to suspend for the whole month of July 2012 the registration of voters in non-ARMM areas to fast-track the re-listing of voters in the ARMM. It is also allowed to redeploy its personnel and necessary equipment for the re-listing of voters in the ARMM.

As to the budgetary requirements, the Department of Budget and Management assured the availability of funds for the undertaking. The Comelec is also advised to resort to appropriate alternative methods of procurement under the Republic Act 9184 in acquiring the necessary equipment and other registration paraphernalia to be used for the ARMM re-listing of voters.

"The amount necessary to implement the new general registration in the ARMM shall be charged against the savings of the Comelec, including but not limited to the savings realized from the postponement of the 2011 ARMM elections and any additional funding requirement shall be charged against the contingent fund authorized under the 2012 General Appropriations Act," the resolution states.

The resolution cited data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) showing blown- up population figures in the ARMM, which according to the authors may have been used by unscrupulous politicians for vote padding activities to ensure victory during previous elections.

For instance, while the population in the ARMM stood at 4.1 million in 2007, a revalidation conducted by NSO in 2010 revealed only a little more than 3.3 million population, the resolution states.

It also cited an overstated 5.46 percent population growth rate in the region between 2000 and 2007 in contrast to the country's population which grew by only 1.89 percent, with the poorest provinces, Maguindanao and Basilan, having the biggest growth rates, at 6.6 percent and 6.44 percent, respectively.

"The electoral history of the ARMM shows that elections results in the ARMM are always questionable and tainted with anomaly and irregularity, chiefly because of the padded book of voters," according to the resolution, "the anomaly in the ARMM has national ramification because these 'ghost', fictitious and double, some are triple, registrants constitute the so-called 'command votes' or 'controlled votes' wielded by political warlords that could decide the winner not only in local but most importantly the national elections."

Drilon, for his part, lauded the speedy approval of the resolution saying that it "will finally put an end to frauds and irregularities in the conduct of elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and spare the ARMM of ignominy of being billed 'the cheating capital of the Philippines."

"This twin move will complete the roadmap of electoral and political reforms in the ARMM which this government is presently pursuing with the help of Congress," said Drilon.

"There will never be a real election and real democracy in the ARMM if these poll frauds, election dysfunctions and padding of the book of voters are not decisively addressed," he added.

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