Our latest report written by PCIJ Fellow Roel R. Landingin exposes what population experts call “a statistical anomaly” with grave implications on the conduct and results of the May 10, 2010 elections – the inexplicable sharp spike in the population growth rate of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Between 2000 and 2007, ARMM posted a 5.46 percent population growth rate, or almost triple the national average of only 2.04 percent.Except for Metro Manila, the nation’s center of commerce, education and government, all other regions posted slower growth rates.

For some reason, ARMM has become the outlier in terms of population growth trends, a situation that must be corrected promptly, according to demographers; in this instance, the numbers may not be entirely neutral.

Having people could mean getting bigger shares of internal revenue allotment (IRA) from the national government. The bailiwick of the Ampatuan clan – whose patriarch and scions had been implicated in the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao last November 23 – ARMM received from Malacanang P8.7 billion in IRA in 2008, a hefty jump of 27.3 percent from P6.8 billion the previous year. In contrast, the IRA of the rest of the regions rose by an average of only 13.8 percent.

Too, having more people could mean having more voters to register and, thus, more votes to count.

Indeed, ARMM also posted the biggest increase in the number of registered voters between 2002 and 2007, a 26.2-percent growth that is more than the national average of only 18.8 percent, according to the Commission on Elections.

In Maguindanao, there were more 18-year-olds, the age at which one can vote in the Philippines, than any other age group below 18, except for those aged 10. In one barangay, the census data showed zero results for children under two years old.

For good or bad, census and elections – perhaps because both involve counting people – seem to be so intrinsically linked in the Philippines. In fact, on May 17, 2010, just a week after the May 10 elections, the government is scheduled to roll out the next population census across the nation.

Meanwhile, our coverage of the petition for bail hearings of the principal accused in the November 23, 2009 Massacre in Ampatuan town, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., continues with two dispatches from Justine Espina-Letargo: “Demystifying the language of law“, a guide to the legalese involved in the trial, as well as report on the motion from Ampatuan’s defense counsel for Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to inhibit herself from the trial.

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