DAVAO CITY — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has found through its Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) at least 61,416 double/multiple registrants in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as of September 11.
Records of 1,567,409 persons who applied for registration in the ARMM in July are presently undergoing cleansing through the AFIS but the process has not been completed, prompting the postponement, again, of the Election Registration Board (ERB) hearings. The ERB approves or disapproves the registration of applicants who trooped to the precincts in the five-province, two-city region during the ten-day registration on July 9 to 18.
Comelec Resolution 9519 on September 13 moved to November 20-26 the ERB hearings which were originally scheduled for August 13-17 and later rescheduled to Sept. 20-26.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told MindaNews in a text message that the original timetables were set "with the assumption that AFIS would be running at maximum capacity which meant that we would be leasing additional server modules (called 'blades') but the blade lease was called off, for various reason, so we've had to readjust expectations."
Comelec Resolution 9519 noted that as of 6:45 a.m. of September 8, the Information Technology Department (ITD) reported having completed "screening and investigation through the AFIS of only 610,397 records out of 1,567,409 registration records with 51,455 (8.43%) records with score 9999 (true hits) and 3,129 (0.51%) with scores below 9999."
According to Resolution 9520, passed on the same day as 9519, the ITD reported that "out of 662,524 records subjected to AFlS process, the AFlS hits a total of 61,416 (9.27%) registration records" as of September 11.
Comelec hopes to "establish a clean, complete, permanent and updated list of voters by purging double/multiple records."
An AFIS matching result, it said, "is an accurate/true hit which signifies that the subject fingerprint is identical with the other fingerprint being matched."
"A score below 9999 means no match. Therefore, the fingerprints belong to different people," Jimenez said.
A registered voter in Lanao del Norte who applied for registration in Lanao del Sur using another name, would be discovered through AFIS since his biometrics would match with the previous record.
Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento told MindaNews that if an applicant was found to have been a double registrant within the ARMM, where the old voters' list was annulled, "through the use of AFIS your name will be dropped."
"If you are a registered voter of Zamboanga City (and found through AFIS to be a double registrant), only your new application in Tawi-tawi will be rejected," he said.
The old voters' list in the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan, was annulled through Joint Resolution 3, passed by Congress in May and approved by President Benigno Simeon Aquino on June 11.
The Joint Resolution cited data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) showing bloated population figures in the ARMM "that would suggest that the voters' lists in the region were padded."
The region has been referred to in previous elections as the country's "cheating capital" for its thousands of multiple registrants and minors passing off as qualified voters.
Comelec Chair SixtoBrillantes Jr. had earlier said they expect the number of voters in the ARMM to be reduced to 1.2 million from the May 2010 figure of 1.7 million.
Deletion from Central Database
Resolution 9520 provides that before the ERB hearings, the ITD shall generate and print AFlS-identified double/multiple records and that based on these, the ITD and Election and Barangay AffairsDepartment (EBAD) "shall undertake the deletion of the records fromthe Central Database, of those identified double/multiple records."
The deletion shall be conducted within the vicinity of the ITD where the Central Database is located "to preserve the integrity ofthe process and avoid premature dissemination of records deleted orstatus of deletion or leakage of registration records," the Resolution said.
Upon completion of the deletion, selected EBAD and ITD personnel will proceed to the Office of the Provincial Election Supervisors (OPES) in the five ARMM provinces "to effect the installation ofthe cleansed database of the Offices of the Election Officers (OEOs) in the above provinces so that the Central Database and Local' Database will be synchronized."
The ARMM Regional Election Director and the Provincial Election Supervisors will then direct the EOs to bring theirVoter's Registration Machines CPU to their respective OPES, with the ITD providing the technical procedures "to execute the installation of cleansed data in the ARMM local database."
Resolution 9520 also provides that after the cleansed data is installed in the local database, the EOs shall come up with new lists of applicants and have these posted in the city/municipal and OEOs' bulletin boards, copy furnished the representatives of the political parties in the area.
All EOs in the cities and municipalities of the ARMM will be providedwith hard copies of the AFlS-identified double/multiple records with notice that the same were already deleted pursuant to Resolution 9520 and that their corresponding applications shall no longer be included in the ERB hearings.
After the ERB hearings, the EOs have to "consolidate the records intheir respective local database and generate the Quarterly ProgressReports (QPR) and Project of Precincts (POP) for the May 13, 2013 elections."
EBAD and ITD personnel will then conduct a joint offsite verification in the ARMM cities and municipalities "to ensure that double/multiple records were actually deleted in the consolidated local database; and that correct and accurate QPR and POP, list of approved applications and soft copy of the local data base are submitted," the resolution said.
(ARMM WATCH is a project of VERA Files in partnership with MindaNews, The Asia Foundation and Australian Agency for International Development. VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")