Archive for August, 2008

Underage
August 30, 2008

One of the major complaints raised by the Anfrel observers in the last ARMM elections – the one that used those DREs and OMRs? – was that there were some underaged voters.

I tried to explain the reality of the registration situation in the ARMM; quite in vain, I suppose. Still, this report from the Inquirer really says it all.

DAVAO CITY – A big number of unregistered Filipinos, or those who have no birth certificates comes from Mindanao, an official of the National Statistics Office (NSO) said Thursday.

Carmelita Ericta, NSO administrator, said 10.62 million people from Mindanao, or 12 percent of the 88.57 million people included in the 2007 population census were not registered with local civil registrars (LCRs).

This is what we’ve been saying all along.There are many cases where parents bring their kids in for registration and swear up and down – some of them on the Quran even – that their kid is of legal age. Without birth certificates to go by, how can the election officer effectively contradict the parent? And the way I see it, it is far better to err on the side of enfranchisement than risk disenfranchising someone.

But of course, in the eyes of the hyper-critical, this has got to be a COMELEC failing. Totally unfair, I should say. It gets worse when the hyper-critical turn out to also have just enough knowledge to convincingly over-generalize about the value of cleaning up the voters list.

Don’t get me wrong: a clean list is essential. What is wrong is the assertion that a clean list is a condition sine qua non for clean elections. For one thing, the list is never very clean for long.

Under the law, the clean up of the list is a continuing preoccupation of the COMELEC. But the law also says that a certain number of days prior to an election, the list has to be locked down – no more changes or alterations made as a general rule. Now, even if you were to assume that the list was 100% clean on the day of the cut-off, it would be unreasonable to assume that the list would stay clean until election day. The only way for the list to remain pristine is if, on the cut-off day, people stopped dying, getting married, going to jail, changing residences, and so on. But of course, life doesn’t stop just because the list has been locked down. And so, seconds ater the lock down, the list starts getting dirty and inaccurate again. Deaths are no longer reported, for instance, and it’s not impossible for someone to look at the list on election day and see the name of a dead relative on there. Guess what the headlines will say the day after.

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