Groups troop to Lanao Sur to monitor polls

In an en banc session last week, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) decided to hold special elections in the towns of Kapatagan, Kapai, Pualas, Madalum, Masiu, Lumba bayabao, Sultan Dumalundong, Butig, Lumbayanague, Bayang, Tubaran, Marogong, and Lumbatan.

A team of lawyers from Lente, an election monitoring group, will arrive in Lanao del Sur Friday to monitor the conduct of elections which would be participated by at least 85,588 voters.

The presence of observers came as allegations of election cheating in Maguindanao province surfaced this week.

Salic Ibrahim, executive director of the Maranao People Development Center (Maradec), said the postponement may have allowed unscrupulous local politicians to “refine” their cheating operations.

“The longer the election process, the more opportunities for fraud will come in,” he said.

Maradec has outlined where election cheating can occur on Saturday.

Ibrahim said the cheating in Lanao del Sur started during the registration of voters.

He said politicians brought in “flying voters” from as far away as Misamis Oriental and Iligan City to vote in Lanao del Sur. Many of these flying voters were paid as much as P2,000 to P5,000 each.

“The amount will be higher if the candidate is linked to a drug syndicate,” Lacs Dalidig, National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) officer in Lanao del Sur said.

He said local drug lords want to be elected to acquire some legitimacy and protection from the police.

Dalidig said the presence of “flying voters” is indicated in the sudden increase of registered voters in Lanao del Sur.

He said there was only 275, 72 voters in Lanao del Sur in the 2004 presidential elections and 2005 elections for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

Dalidig said for the May 2007 elections, the number of registered voters suddenly went up to 396,913 voters.

He said this is “statistically impossible” since the birth rate of Marawi City is only 2.96 percent and 3.92 percent for Lanao del Sur a year.

Ibrahim said the next step in the cheating if the election paraphernalia. He said local election officials have not torn up excess election paraphernalia as required by law.

He said this practice is highly suspect since many of the local elections officials involved in the cheating in the 2004 presidential elections, are the ones supervising the special elections this Saturday.

“They (election officials) can use these excess election paraphernalia,” Ibrahim said.

Another way to cheat, Ibrahim said is the practice of election officials of reading the names in the voter’s list instead of “first come, first served.”

He said this practice is highly anomalous since a corrupt election official can purposely omit the name of a voter whom he or she suspect will be voting for another politician.

Ibrahim said local politicians also bribe local election officials to make “last-minute changes” on the composition of board of canvassers in a particular town.

“Politicians do that especially if they think their opponents have already the board of canvassers in their pay. A change of canvassers will level the playing field,” he said.

Ibrahim said most of the known methods of cheating will come during the counting of ballots.

He said in most cases, the board of canvassers will use “the dagdag-bawas” adding or subtracting the votes for their favoured candidates.

Ibrahim said local politicians resort to cheating because of the huge amount they spent during the elections.

He said many local politicians will also resort to employing goons to sow violence if they see an imminent loss. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)