CANDIDATES-BUT FEWER VOTERS
THE number of candidates for the presidency may have increased by c four from the 1992 elections' seven, but fewer people will troop the precincts to cast their votes on May 11.
Worse, the list could even be padded.
Records at the Commission on Elections show that the number of registered voters decreased y 12 percent from the number in 1997.
Only 34.146,667 voters registered from July to December.
The figure is way below the 3X.971.152 voters Who were listed during the N1ay 1997 barangay elections. All the 16 regions in the country reflected a decline in the number of voters of as much as 600,000.
Commissioner Teresita Flores earlier attributed the decline to the purging of the 12-year-old voters' list, from which voters who have died, or who were listed twice have been deleted.
She added that the increasing number of overseas workers contributed to the decline in the number of voters.
Metro Manila still has the most number of voters at 5.15 million although the number is still lower than the 5.59 million during the barangay elections.
A close second is Southern Tagalog with 5.04 million: Central Luzon is third with 3.72 million.
The Cordillera Administrative Region has the lowest number of registered voters at 590,925.
Even with the purging of the list, the Comelec cannot determine if some of the voters lists' have been padded by election cheaters.
The staff at the Comelec Records and Statistics Division cannot determine whether some of the lists are padded because election officers all over the country have just submitted the data to the poll body's central office.
But they noted that except for vote-padding incident in Barira, Maguindanao, they have yet to receive a complaint on tampered voters' lists.
The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) earlier said that poll cheaters have resorted to tampering with the voters' list after the discovery of dagdag-bawas (vote padding and shaving) during the 1995 senatorial elections.
The Namfrel reported vote padding in the cities of Las Pinas and Muntinlupa, as well as in the town of Navotas, but the Comelec cannot facilitate expulsion procedures against the voters' list of these areas. The reason: the required 60-day period before the elections has already lapsed.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines demanded that the Comelec explain why it allowed the clergy and the religious to participate in pollwatching but denied them the chance to take part in the counting of votes.
Christian Action for Peaceful and Meaningful Elections
Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City
Tel. No. 924-4951 local 3588, Fax No. 924-4442
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