Watching Mindanao and monitoring ARMMTwo Mindanao related online sites up as voters registration get underway in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, the most controversial area during elections.
Last Monday, the U.S. Embassy launched a new blog: “Peace, Prosperity, and Partnership in Mindanao.” (http://blogs.usembassy.gov/mindanao)
The U.S. Embassy release quoted Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. saying, “Every time I visit Mindanao I am impressed with its rich cultural diversity, the enthusiasm of its youth, and its tremendous potential.
We are trying to do our part to help create opportunities, foster understandings, and promote good governance and human rights.”
Jay de Jesus, U.S. Embassy Manila’s Emerging Media specialist said the Mindanao blog will carry “information on how to participate in U.S. Embassy programs offered in Mindanao, as well as conversations with young leaders from Mindanao who share their insights and impressions. “
It will also give information on cultural programs, health initiatives, and business innovations supported by U.S. government agencies.
“The U.S. Embassy invites your comments and contributions to the blog through webchats, contests, and webinars. We hope the launch of the “Peace, Prosperity and Partnership” blog becomes a space to reach new audiences, provide up-to-date information, and engage with an online community committed to creating opportunities in Mindanao,” de Jesus said.
This is the second blog of the U.S. Embassy. The first, launched last year, focused on visa matters, the number one interest of Filipinos with the U.S. Embassy in Manila. (http://blogs.usembassymanila.gov/philippines , focusing mainly on Visas, was launched last year).
VERA Files (www.verafiles.org) and Mindanews (http://www.mindanews.com) with the support of The Asia Foundation and AusAid are currently monitoring the 10-day registration at the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao with started Last July 9 under the program “ARMM WATCH.”
The whole country cannot be uninvolved in the process of cleansing ARMM’s voters list. ARMM has earned the notorious reputation of being the deciding area in the past elections because election operators can deliver the needed votes regardless of the number of registered voters. Remember the 2004 elections as heard in the “Hello Garci tapes”?
From the reports on the ground since Monday, it seems that there is hope to make things right in ARMM but it is a huge challenge. Here are some of the stories from ARMM:A story by Babylyn Kano Omar datelined Bongao, Tawi-tawi said the general registration of voters went off to a peaceful start, although delays and power shortages slightly marred the event.
The report said:”Overall, there was a feeling of excitement among voters, and some boredom on the part of local official but the atmosphere was generally peaceful.”
Bad, old practice is difficult to eliminate.Richard Falcatan reported from Lamitan City about underaged Muslims still registering as voters.
The report said: “The practice of underaged Muslims attempting to register as voters continues in the ongoing general registration of voters in Muslim Mindanao, but they won’t get away with it because the Commission on Elections will still validate all registrants before releasing the voters’ list, officials here said.
“Doon sa mga underage, huwag nyo isipin na magrehistro kayo,” said Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman. “The Commission will track you.”
The practice of children as young as 10 years old enlisting as voters has been a long time problem in the ARMM, and one of the reasons that voters’ lists in many areas has been considered compromised and unreliable.
As a result, all voters’ lists in the ARMM have been purged, and a new registration of voters held in the five ARMM provinces—Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur—and in the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
Aside from underaged registrants, other problems include hakutan (the transporting of voters) and the lack of forms. Some problems are normal during elections, Hataman said, but he said overall the registration went well.
Love Ilustre of DXSM reported about the warning of Atty. Vidzfar Juli, Commission on Election provincial supervisor, against multiple registrations, or enlisting as voters in different areas.
Juli observed that the number of registrants has reached 300 in some registration centers, despite a limit of 200 applications per day per center.
Froilan Gallardo reported from Marawi City of the entire team of election officers assigned in the municipality of Butig in Lanao del Sur pulling out out dawn Wednesday, fearing for their lives after unruly supporters of warring local politicians fired shots in the air and fought each other at the town market.
Gandawali Rasuman, election officer in Butig, said the fighting among the local supporters traumatized the election officers, many of whom were first-timers in election duty in Lanao del Sur where gunfights and fisticuffs are common fare during any election exercise.