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MANILA, Philippines - As the 10-day general voters' registration in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) started on Monday, it was discovered that many underage individuals were having themselves listed as voters.
In Baranggay Talayan, Maguindanao, the News5 team observed that many young-looking individuals carrying forms lined up for registration. When the team asked how old they were, most of them failed to answer clearly.
Among them was Ikay Omar, who failed to answer how old he was and whether he brought with him copies of his birth certificate or identification card to prove that he was of voting age. After Omar left, another man immediately approached the News5 team and said that Omar was 18 years old.
According to an officer of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Talayan, there were instances when they allowed individuals to register even without their I.D.s as long as they were of the right age.
Henrietta “Tita” de Villa, chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, confirmed the existence of underage registrants in the region.
"(N)akita namin ang trend already in three registration centers sa Sinsuat na may mga under age registrants...dami ko na-confront, you can see naman sa itsura," she told reporters on Monday. [We already saw the trend on underage registrants in three registration centers in Sinsuat. I have already confronted many and you can see on how they look.)
De Villa also shared one of her encounters with an underaged registrant. "When I asked someone about her age, she did not responded immediately, then, she said she was 20 years old. When I said she looked like a 16-year old, a woman behind her approached and said that the girl is really 20 years of age," she said in Filipino.
Meanwhile, Comelec Commissioner Sixto Brillantes said at a press conference in Zamboanga on Monday that the poll body had already deployed more than 1,000 election officers who would administer the registration. Also, all the machines needed for the registration are already in the ARMM areas, according to the Comelec chief.
Brillantes reminded politicians to veer away from illicit activities that might trigger violence. Military and police forces are prepared for deployment in case disturbance arises in the registration areas.
The Comelec chief said that he was confident that the 10-day registration would be enough to correct the voters' list in the ARMM to ensure an orderly election in the region in 2013. -with Romsanne R. Ortiguero