The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already started the filing of cases against 7,000 of more than 400,000 individuals with double or multiple registrations, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said Thursday.
“Pinasimulan na po namin ang pagpa-file ng 7,000 complaints laban sa kanilang lahat. Akala po nila makakaligtas sila. Good faith is not a defense," Garcia said in a press conference after a consultative meeting in Ilocos Norte on Thursday.
Hopefully po dahan-dahanin namin kasi sa Law Department namin pina-file yon…So lahat po sila ay pa-file-an namin ng kaso. Kanya-kanyang defense na lang po sila. Bahala na sila,” he added.
If they fail to file cases against these double registrants, Garcia said, the Comelec will still be blamed for this problem.
He said the poll body has seen millions of double registrants since 2010 but they can now counter-check this within two months through the automated fingerprint identification system.
These double registrations will be removed by the Election Registration Board which will convene before the October 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE), he added.
But Garcia explained that individuals who have double registrations can still vote but they will have to face criminal charges.
“Hindi por que ang isang tao ay double or multiple registrant ay tanggal lahat ng kanyang registration. Ang pagboto po ay isang karapatan na nakalagay sa Saligang Batas natin. At dahil po ito ay isang constitutional right, may isang matitira na registration at yun ay ang kauna-unahan niyang registration. Laging may natitira po. Hindi siya puwedeng tanggalan ng karapatan bumoto pero haharap siya sa kasong kriminal,” he added.
In May, Comelec spokesperson Rex Laudiangco said the poll body would file election offense cases against individuals who deliberately commit double registration.
In one of Comelec en banc sessions, the poll body directed the constitution of Special Election Registration Boards (SERBs) to remove more than 400,000 double or multiple registrants which are identified through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).
Laudiangco had said the SERBs will conduct hearings in June nationwide to ensure that the double registrants are abated and voters who transferred their registration were already deleted from the list of voters in their previous voting precincts.
The SERBs will also get updates from the civil registrants to remove the names of the deceased individuals from the list of voters and from the courts for the exclusion or inclusion of individuals whose right to suffrage are either forfeited or regranted.
Another SERB hearing will be conducted in July to take a second look at the official list of voters for the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections in coordination with the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections. — BM, GMA Integrated News