The Manila Times : Clean voters’ database: A challenge to a transparent 2022 elections

News & Interviews
19 May 2021

By Nelson Celis | The Manila Times

Fifth of a series

WE ended with a question in our previous article: “What could be the highlights of the RTD with Diño?” This is with reference to the recent roundtable discussion (RTD) held by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) with the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) undersecretary for barangay (village) affairs, Martin Diño, vis their possible collaboration with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on voters’ list cleansing per barangay.

At this point, the DILG is the most logical partner for the Comelec’s collaborative efforts in cleansing voters’ databases. As highlighted in the first part of this series of articles (https://www.manilatimes.net/2021/03/03/opinion/columnists/topanalysis/clean-voters-database-a-challenge-to-a-transparent-2022-elections/846879/), there are several reasons for the delisting of unwanted registered voters, one of which is the handling of deceased voters. It was noted that the cancellation of registration based on Section 29 of the “The Continuing Voter Registration Act” or Republic Act (RA) 8189 states, “The [Election Registration] Board (ERB) shall cancel the registration records of those who have died as certified by the Local Civil Registrar. The Local Civil Registrar shall submit each month a certified list of persons who died during the previous month to the Election Officer of the place where the deceased are registered.”

The members of the ERB (Sec. 15, RA 8189) “shall be composed of the Election Officer as chairman and as members, the public school official most senior in rank and the local civil registrar, or in this absence, the city or municipal treasurer.” Section 479 of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 stipulates, “The appointment of a civil registrar shall be mandatory for city and municipal governments…. The civil registrar shall be responsible for the civil registration program in the local government unit concerned…. Transmit to the Office of the Civil Registrar- General, within the prescribed period, duplicate copies of registered documents required by law…. Coordinate with the National Statistics Office (now called the Philippine Statistics Authority) in conducting educational campaigns for vital registration and assist in the preparation of demographic and other statistics for the local government unit concerned.”

Hence, it is quite clear in the foregoing paragraphs that the Comelec-DILG collaboration is already mandated under existing laws, through the local civil registrar, in delisting deceased registered voters. However, lawyer Melchor Magdamo, formerly a close adviser of former Comelec chairman Jose Armando Melo, said that non-delisting of deceased voters is an incentive for promotion of local election officers as also mentioned in the first part of this series.

So, how can a more extensive Comelec-DILG collaboration be attained to effectively cleanse the voters’ list, and possibly rid it of this so-called “promotion?” CenPEG asked Undersecretary Diño at the RTD. He said that his office could help by invoking DILG Memorandum Circular 2020-117 dated Sept. 4, 2020, which states, “Pursuant to RA 6975, otherwise known as ‘Rules and Regulations Implementing the Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990,’ specifically Rule III, Section (12)(c)(4), the National Barangay Operations Office, is mandated to establish and update the master list of villages, barangay officials and barangay socioeconomic profiles. In compliance thereto, the Barangay Information System (BIS) was developed to expeditiously gather, encode, store and maintain data related to villages in effect resulting in a systematized manner of accumulating and retrieving relevant data that are essential in coming up with informed decisions on various governance issues. Moreover, the BIS…makes it possible for its user to get the right data to the right audience in the right form and at the right time. The BIS is integrated in the DILG Intranet that serves as the central dashboard wherein other DILG web applications can be accessed.” Under the BIS is the Barangay Profile System (BPS) module “that was developed to be used in gathering the basic data of the barangay including, but not limited to, physical, fiscal, demographic and political data, as well as its historical information, basic utilities/services and facilities, awards and recognitions received.”

In this regard, Undersecretary Diño said collaboration with Comelec about the cleansing of the voters’ list per barangay is very feasible. He added that for a more transparent cleansing, he would suggest that nongovernment organizations and politicians be tapped in going through the verification process of identifying genuine barangay residents who are active and deceased registered voters. This means that ERB would be able to comply with Sec. 29 of RA 8189 easily and that possible non-delisting of deceased voters by election officers is avoided.

There were suggestions raised during the RTD, to wit:

– To cleanse the barangay residents’ and voters’ lists simultaneously on a house-to-house basis by barangay officials

– To post the said lists in visible places in the barangay and in social media for easy verification by residents themselves

– To institutionalize the monitoring of these lists not only by DILG but also by the DSWD, PSA and other government offices concerned

– To build a coalition with DILG’s Barangay Affairs that will focus on the voters’ list cleansing

– To include the ‘available list of barangay residents’ in the agenda in the regular barangay assembly.

Undersecretary Diño is very positive about the Comelec-DILG collaboration in cleansing the voters’ list using their BIS-BPS. He even agreed to request an audience with Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas to discuss the details of the collaboration and how the BIS-BPS can be linked with Comelec’s voters’ database.

(To be continued)