Friday, January 22, 2010

Comelec: 43,000 registered twice for May polls


Some 43,000 voters were found to have registered at least twice for the May 2010 elections in Calabarzon and in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a Commission on Elections (Comelec) official revealed on Friday.

These double and multiple registrants were discovered through the use of biometrics and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), Commissioner Rene Sarmiento told reporters, citing findings of the Comelec’s Information and Technology Department (ITD).

These voters could not have done this mistakenly, saying that they really intended to cast their vote more than once during election day, he said.

“Wala nang iba, bakit ka pa nagparehistro ng mutiple (there is no other reason, why would they register more than once), this is very unusual," Sarmiento said, adding many registrants even tried to change their appearances when they went to other registration sites.

As of January 15, 2010, the number of registered voters in Calabarzon – representing provinces in Cavite, Laguna, Lucena City, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon – are at 6,736,126.

Registered voters in the ARMM, composed of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi provinces, have reached 1,882,339. The figure includes registered voters in Isabela and Cotabato cities.

These figures, provided by the Comelec’s Election and Records Statistics Department, are likely to rise because the poll body is still finalizing the official list of registered voters.

Charges to be filed against multiple registrants

A Comelec en banc resolution has already instructed the ITD to remove or delist the double and multiple registrants from the official list of voters, Sarmiento said.

The agency can either investigate the matter and file appropriate charges or designate the Department of Justice to prosecute the case, he said.

However, registrants may still vote but only in the precinct where he or she first registered.

“They can vote but without prejudice to the filing of appropriate charges…against them," he said. “If there [is] double registration, the first registration will be valid, not the subsequent."

Penalty for this election offense is one to six years imprisonment without probation and perpetual disqualification from holding public office, Sarmiento said.

Number of voters who registered twice to rise

Double and multiple registrants are also expected to increase, Sarmiento said, adding that the Commission is now in the process of going through records of all the country’s other regions.

“…[E]ven before the investigation of the four regions are finished, 43,000 double and multiple registrants have been already found…that means more will be discovered by the ITD," he told reporters.

Sarmiento also warned those who committed the offense that they are bound to be discovered and punished.

“I think this discovery by the ITD is sending a strong signal to the registrants… to be very careful because we now have this technology to discover this anomaly and shenanigans," he said.

Earlier, the Comelec said that the number of registered voters for 2010 had already surpassed 50 million.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said that there are about 50,086,054 registered voters, excluding the 258,691 who were able to register during the extended registration held on December 21, 22, 23, 28, and 29.

In the 2007 polls, there were just 45,029,443 registered voters.

Currently, Jimenez said they have 75,471 clustered precincts.

Each clustered precinct will have a Precinct Count Optical Scan machine, each of which can supposedly accommodate up to 1,000 voters. - with GMA News Research, RJAB Jr./GMANews.TV

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