Comelec bends rules for indigenous folk

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 03 2012 08:37 PM | Updated as of Jul 06 2012 06:32 PM

MANILA, Philippines - About 30 percent of some 16 million indigenous peoples stand to benefit from a new agreement between the Commission on Elections, Department of the Interior and Local Government and  the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to facilitate their registration as voters for the 2013 mid-term elections.

Officials of the 3 agencies signed a memorandum of agreement that will allow Comelec, NCIP and DILG personnel to go to IP communities in the hinterlands to allow them to register.

The same agreement is premised on a Comelec resolution that will likewise allow indigenous peoples with no valid IDs to be registered once idenitified by a registered voter in the precint where he intends to register, or by a relative to the 4th civil degree.

No registered voter or relative shall be allowed to identify applicants more than 3 times.

Election officers will likewise be authorized to assist in registering IPs who are illiterate.

The Comelec handed out Resolution 9427 on indigenous peoples last May 17, 2012.

NCIP chair Zenaida Brigida Pawid said on the average, about a third of the 16 million IPs in the country are voters.

Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the policy will be pilot-tested in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the registration of voters in the area from July 9 to 18.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the poll body will send representatives to barangays in the pilot areas. IPs who want to register will be made to accomplish the necessary forms and have their biometrics taken in the voter registration machine.

There are pilot areas in each of the country's 13 regions as well as the ARMM and Cordillera Administrative Region. Pilot testing occurs from July to October.

Sarmiento said the DILG will facilitate the transportation of the Comelec to the pilot-testing areas. On voting day, the DILG will also provide transportation for IPs to go to voting center.

Pawid said they chose the pilot-testing areas with the help of the indigenous folk.