THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) expressed alarm over the dramatic increase in the number of new registered voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a known hotbed of electoral fraud.
Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista on Friday said he had the matter investigated by the ARMM Comelec regional director, adding that he expects to receive the report anytime soon.
“I already send a memo addressed to the regional director. I am asking him to explain why there was a very big increase in the number of registered voters in the ARMM compared to the other regions,” Bautista told The Manila Times.
He said registered voters in the ARMM increased by almost 500,000 new voters after the registration in November 2015.
ARMM is composed of the provinces of Basilan (except Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Bautista said the Comelec-ARMM director texted him earlier that there was also an increase during the barangay elections in 2013 from 1.4 million to 1.6 million.
The increase was attributed by the regional director to longer registration period in the runup to the 2016 elections which lasted 17 months, compared to the two-week registration in the previous elections.
Voters registration for the 2016 elections in the ARMM has increased from 2.349 million to 54.363 million from 52.014 registered voters in 2013, or a 26.87 percent jump, the biggest among the 16 regions in the country.
Based on the Comelec’s profile of registered voters by region, ARMM has a total of 1,863,230 voters in 2016 as compared to 1,468,584 in 2013 or an increase of 394,646.
Interestingly, records also showed that during the 2010 elections there were a total of 1,882,338 registered voters in the ARMM, much bigger than 2013 and 2016.
According to the 2010 figures of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the ARMM has a total population of 3,256,140.
“Alarming ‘to. Kailangan bantayan (This is alarming. It should be closely watched.),” Bautista stressed.
He said he wanted a formal report explaining in detail how the increase in 2016 voters registration came to be.
It may be recalled that the “Hello Garci” scandal, which allegedly padded the votes of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo against the late action star Fernando Poe Jr., was reportedly done in Mindanao.
The “Hello Garci” controversy broke out in 2005 after audiotapes of an alleged conversation between Arroyo and former Comelec official Virgilio Garcillano surfaced.