By Joseph Jubelag
GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is conducting an investigation into reports that Indonesian nationals were able to cast their votes during the mid-term elections last Monday in Davao Occidental after they had surreptitiously secured Philippine voters’ registration.
Lawyer Michael Abas, Comelec regional director for Davao region, said he had already called the attention of Rosalina Natividad, election officer of Sarangani town in Davao Occidental to verify reports that some Indonesian nationals residing in Sarangani island municipality were able to register as Filipino voters.
The Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) had earlier sought the assistance of the Comelec in the verification of Indonesians who were issued with Philippine voters’ registration.
Joyce Kandice Villaraza, alien control officer for Sarangani province and Batuganding border crossing station based in Sarangani town, has asked Natividad for the list of registered voters in the municipality of Sarangani that will serve as reference in the verification of voters’ identities.
There were about 3,000 Indonesians locally known as “Maruri” who are presently residing in the island municipality of Sarangani which is located at the border of Indonesia and Philippines.
These Indonesian nationals had settled in the island for decades through migration and inter-married with the locals.
Immigration officials said the undocumented Indonesians had either secured documents which bear their Filipino identities, including voters’ registration and identification cards as beneficiaof the welfare assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Villaranza said the BID received reports from law enforcement agencies over the presence of Indonesian nationals in some parts of Southern Mindanao who were posing as Filipinos.
He said the BID is closely coordinating with the Comelec in looking into reports that some local officials in Sarangani town had facilitated the issuance of Philippine voters’ registration for the Indonesian nationals residing in the area.
Abas said the Comelec lacked the time to scrutinize and verify the list of registered voters in Sarangani town before the mid-term elections on Monday.
He explained that the supposed voters’ registration issued to Indonesian nationals is presumed valid unless there are complainants who will question their authenticity.
“The Indonesian nationals could likely vote unless there are complainants who will come out to question their qualifications as Filipino registered voters,’ Abas said.
Security officials have expressed concern over the presence of suspected foreign terrorists operating in Mindanao who pass themselves off as Filipinos.
An intelligence official working for the government’s counter-terrorism agency said they had retrieved documents purportedly issued by concerned government agencies that showed suspected foreign terrorists were issued with Philippine birth certificates by submitting spurious documents required for birth certificate registration.
He said this had caused alarm among security forces which have been pursuing foreign terrorists who are embedded with local ISIS-inspired terror groups in Mindanao.