By Dona Z. Pazzibugan, June 16, 2023; Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is taking to court only 7,000 out of the 120,000 people who deliberately registered as voters two times or more in several areas.

“We have started filing complaints against 7,000 multiple registrants,” Comelec Chair George Garcia said on Thursday at a news briefing in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, which officials of the poll body visited in preparation for the Oct. 30 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Charges of violating the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996, or Republic Act No. 8189, would be filed against the multiple voter registrants, with Garcia saying the Comelec would not accept their excuse of having no ulterior motive for their action.

“Even if they claim they did not know [their previous voter registrations were still valid], good faith is not a defense,” he added.

While the Comelec law department files the charges in court, the poll body will also notify the election registration boards concerned to remove from the official list of registered voters the names of the multiple registrants, Garcia said.

Last month, the Comelec reported the discovery of 491,017 double or multiple registrants following the last round of voter registration in January with the help of the automated fingerprint identification system that detected entries of the same set of fingerprints.

The poll body said that in most cases, the registrant was not at fault since they registered in another area due to a change of address. However, at the time they signed up, the Comelec had yet to delete their original registration.

In the case of 118,178 multiple registrants, they appeared to have “a clear design to become double or multiple registrants” since they used either the same or another name, address and picture, according to the poll body.