MANILA: Police on Monday reported the arrest of 300 suspected “flying voters” on board several vehicles while on their way to election registration centers in Maguindanao province in volatile Mindanao.
Chief Inspector Abubakar Mangelen Junior, the head of the Maguindanao provincial police mobile group, said that among those arrested were about 50 minors.
Mangelen said the suspects were aboard several vehicles including passenger jeepneys when they were intercepted at the checkpoints established by the police and the military in the province.
The suspects, he added, admitted they were to be brought to the voters’ registration centres set up by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the towns of Rajah Buayan, Sultan sa Barongis, Datu Unsay and Saidona in Maguindanao.
As the name implies, the Comelec defines flying voters as “multiple registrants” who can go from one voting centre to another to cast their ballots during the election.
“The arrested suspects told us they were hired to register as voters but they have yet to tell us who hired them so we can file the appropriate charges against these people,” Mangelen said.
Following the arrest, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu appealed to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and Sixto Brilliantes, the Comelec chairman, to annul the old voters’ lists and order a new registration using the biometric system.
Mangudadatu noted that Brilliantes has ordered a continuing registration of voters in a determined attempt to cleanse the old list due to the presence of flying voters and other illegal voters.
However, Mangudadatu also pointed out that Brilliantes appeared to have abandoned implementation of the biometric system which would cost the Comelec about $20 million which it could not afford at this time.
Maguindanao is a component province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) along with Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Sulu as well as Marawi City.
Under a new law, elections there scheduled in August 2011 were deferred to coincide with the country’s midterm polls in May 2013.