300,000 voters in Philippines lack biometrics data

300,000 voters in Philippines lack biometrics data

As many as 300,000 voters in Pangasinan and Davao City had been found to have no or incomplete biometrics data that could prevent them from casting their votes in the 2016 elections, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

These voters, Comelec officials in these two areas said, need to go through a validation process by October or lose their right to vote.

In Pangasinan, more than 100,000 of the more than 1.6 million voters in the province have yet to go through validation. "This number is big. It could make or break a candidate, even a presidential candidate for that matter," said Marino Salas, Pangasinan election supervisor.

In the 2013 elections, 58 per cent of the total number of voters in the Ilocos region are from Pangasinan (1,651,814 registered voters), Comelec data showed.

With the 2016 elections barely 11 months away, prospective national candidates have been frequenting the province in recent months. "This is why our focus is to seek out 125,000 voters and encourage them to go through the [validation] process," Salas said.

Validation, according to the Comelec website, is the process of completing the data of registered voters, who have no biometrics data or have incomplete biometrics data, by capturing these in the voter registration system.

A voter should visit the Comelec office where he or she is registered to have his or her photograph, fingerprints and signature captured electronically. The deadline for validation is on Oct. 31.

As of May 28, Salas said the number of registered voters in Pangasinan has gone down to 1,615,000 after a purge of the provincial voters list.

He said his office had been conducting off-site validation and registration of new voters to make the process more accessible. Some of the invalidated voters, who had failed to go to Comelec offices, had been saying they didn't have time for the procedure because of their work.

"So we really go to the barangay (villages) and even to the public markets," Salas said.

In Davao City, Marlon Casquejo, assistant Comelec director for Southern Mindanao, said at least 180,000 voters need to undergo validation by Oct. 31.

The city has a voting population of 888,442 but only about 2,000 updated their records, he said.

"We still have about five months left to capture the biometrics data of the remaining voters who did not undergo the process," he said.

Casquejo said beating the deadline would be difficult for the Comelec. In Davao City's first district, composed of 55 villages in Poblacion and Talomo areas, 82,663 voters lacked the requirement.

This means that for this area alone, the Comelec has to process 300 people a day just to beat the deadline, Casquejo said.

"Statistically speaking, it would be quite difficult to process all of the 180,000 voters lacking biometrics data," he said.

Davao City Councilor Bernard Al-ag said said unless the Comelec puts up more satellite offices in remote districts, "many voters will be disenfranchised."

Casquejo said the Comelec was not remiss in its duty. "We send out about 5,000 letters each week, reminding voters to update their records but only about 20 voters would respond," he said.

In a statement, the city's Liga ng mga Barangay said it would set up mobile registration centres.


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