CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 24 Oct) – Unidentified gunmen torched an elementary school in Tagoloan, a fifth-class municipality in Lanao del Norte, Monday night as poll officials finalized security plans for an orderly and peaceful conduct of the barangay elections this coming Monday, belated reports said.
Supt. Madid Paitao, Philippine National Police (PNP) director in Lanao del Norte, said the gunmen torched the two-room Darimbang Primary School building Tagoloan around 11:30 p.m.
A convoy of Army tanks and fire trucks managed to reach the school before dawn Tuesday and found it partially damaged. Nothing was however left of the books stored in the school, reports said.
“The suspects used dried coconut leaves to set off the fire. This is definitely an election-related violence,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Ibon, commanding officer of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade.
The incident is the first election-related violence monitored by authorities in the province in the coming barangay elections on Monday.
Paitao said they are also monitoring the situation in six other towns in Lanao del Norte, namely, Tangkal, Munai, Poona Piagapo, Salvador, Nunungan and Tagoloan.
Supt. Danilo Pelisco, PNP Region 10 operations chief, said they have put 217 barangays in the provinces of Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon under careful monitoring in this coming elections.
Pelisco said the villages which they called “election watch list areas” are potential trouble areas because of the presence of New People’s Army rebels.
Beside the communist guerillas, Pelisco said a potential source of trouble are the family feuds or rido among the candidates in Lanao del Norte.
“We have scattered more than 3,585 police officers to provide security in the polling precincts regionwide on Monday,” Pelisco said.
Col. Francisco Pabayo, chief of the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade, said their main concern is the town of Kitaotao in Bukidnon province where communist rebels can easily enter from North Cotabato and Davao provinces.
Pabayo said they are also monitoring the security situation in the towns of Lagonglong and Balingasag, both in Misamis Oriental, where the NPA rebels have been active lately.
Commission on Elections Northern Mindanao Director Renato Magbutay said 2,554,776 voters will troop to 1,905 voting centers located in 8,105 clustered precincts across the provinces of Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Camiguin and Bukidnon provinces.
Magbutay said some 4,200 candidates are contesting the 2,320 positions for barangay chairmen across Northern Mindanao.
In Lanao del Norte, some 962 candidates are fighting for the positions of chairman or Punong Barangay in 932 barangays. For barangay kagawads, the Comelec said some 6,175 have filed their certificates of candidacies.
“You can image how intense is the campaigning. Right now we are keeping our fingers crossed because the incidents reported are only minor like stone throwing,” Magbutay said. (With reports)