Comelec stumped by ‘flying voters’ | Inquirer Opinion

Comelec stumped by ‘flying voters’

/ 05:15 AM May 23, 2023

Flying voters, in this era of automated elections, seem to be an aberration. The practice of bringing in voters to voting precincts in areas other than their real place of residence was thought to have been a relic of the old Philippine election system marked by guns, goons, and gold.

But the discovery last week of nearly half a million double or multiple election registrants has proven that the same dirty tricks are still very much around.


Commission on Elections chair George Garcia recently said that the Comelec was able to detect over 400,000 people who registered multiple times during the Dec. 12, 2022 to Jan. 31, 2023 voter registration for the coming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections. According to Garcia, the double or multiple registrations were detected through the Comelec’s automated fingerprint identification system, which crosschecks fingerprints from the biometrics data of all registered voters in the country.

Over the weekend, that figure rose to 491,017. Comelec spokesperson Rex Laudiangco said most of the double registrants registered in another city or municipality because of their supposed change of address. But, he said, some 118,178 people were found to have registered as voters under dubious circumstances.


“This requires not only a deletion of the application for new registration, but more so an investigation whether or not the new application is intentional and coupled with a clear design to become double or multiple registrants,” Laudiangco said.

The Comelec findings validated earlier reports that flying voters have descended on some areas, including one barangay in Makati City, the country’s financial capital, ahead of the barangay and SK elections on Oct. 30.

The reports prompted Sen. Imee Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, to seek a Senate inquiry on the “alleged massive fraudulent registration of voters.” Marcos cited the case of Barangay Carmona in Makati City, where the number of registered voters surged by 78 percent. She said barangay chair Joselito Salvador noted no recent mass migration of new residents to the area to justify the surge. Further, nearly 500 applicants who were challenged and subsequently withdrew their voter registration, were found to be residents of Bulacan, Zambales, Laguna, and Mindoro Occidental.

More disturbingly, Marcos referred to “allegations that the purported massive fraudulent voter registrations are bankrolled by big-time businessmen, contractors, and suppliers in anticipation of the increase in the internal revenue allotment of barangays brought about by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Mandanas vs. Executive Secretary et al.” Which means a bigger budget for local projects to profit from.

The incident deserves a thorough and transparent investigation and the prosecution of those behind this latest incarnation of wholesale electoral fraud. While flying voters in the past are associated with politicians out to perpetuate themselves in power, the alleged involvement of “big-time businessmen” in padding voters’ lists, raises the matter to a new level. The city government of Makati should also explain or at least cooperate in investigating the allegation raised by no less than President Marcos’ sister.

The Comelec should comb the list of registered voters thoroughly to weed out fraudulent voters not only because of the October village and youth elections, but the upcoming midterm elections in 2025.

The Comelec should also educate the public about election laws, and reduce the inconvenience for people who need to change their registration because of real changes in their home address or circumstances. It should not assume that people already know that they have to go to Comelec offices to file the required documents for transfer of registration and the cancellation of their previous one, or that making any false or untruthful statement in their application for registration is an election offense punishable under the Omnibus Election Code.


There is also a need to plug the loopholes in our election laws, including problems in their implementation which allow nefarious activities such as flying voters, vote-buying, vote-selling, vote-padding, vote-shaving, and even the so-called “technical glitches” and pre-shading of ballots under the present automated voting and vote counting system.

Recall that the late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed a bill that would require proof of residence when one registers as a voter. Such proof is not specified in the election code that only says citizens are qualified to vote in the city or municipality where they have resided for at least six months immediately preceding the election. This oversight would have been addressed by current digital identification cards, among them the long-delayed national ID or the barangay ID issued by various local government units.

Still and all, Comelec has the ultimate responsibility to come up with practical and fool-proof measures to finally eradicate the anomaly of flying voters.

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TAGS: Commission on Elections, flying voters
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