Fewer voters trooped to polls in Davao City

"It makes me sad because people do not realize the importance of the barangay elections. This unit of government plays a crucial role in the totality of governance," Duterte told reporters before entering Precint 1245 – A of the Daniel R. Aguinaldo High School in Matina district by around 1:50 p.m. as the 21st voter out of 188 registered.

"People are happy because the barangay election is a holiday. But they did not show up in polling places to vote," he said.

Most of the 52 precincts located in the school where the Dutertes voted were observed to have barely reached 40 percent turnout an hour and a half before voting closed at 3p.m.

The mayor, who said he monitored polling places, said the low turnout is not good because it shows the officials are "hindi masyado napapansin" (not getting much attention).

Duterte said he would push for more devolved powers to the barangay government unit especially in deciding for their development projects for people to see more value in their community officials.

"But we have to strengthen the collegial powers of the unit to prevent politicking to come in the way of governance," he told MindaNews.

Members of board of election tellers in precincts around the city noted the lower turnout this year compared in the 2002 synchronized barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections.

Agafe Joy Diaz, DRAS Head teacher and board of election teller chair, told MindaNews there is disparity in the interest of voters.

"Those who belong to the (social) classes CDE are more interested to vote. Those coming from classes AB are more aloof," she said pointing to turnouts in specific precincts.

Diaz said some of the complaints of voters in her precinct, mostly residents of  subdivisions, is they do not know the candidates.

"Many of them just choose which family names sounds popular or good," she said.

Elizabeth Burgos, 1270-A precinct BET chair, told MindaNews the low turnout happened amid the increasing number of candidates who aspired for political office at the barangay level.

"Some people see the increase in number of candidates as more for the economic reasons, rather than for public service," Burgos, moderator of the DRAS prefect of discipline and long time teacher of Social Studies, said.

"People seem to have less trust now amid several questionable dealings of the government in general," she said.

Jayvee Gonzales, poll clerk of Precinct 1278-A, where only 28 voters out of 136 voted said this year's barangay elections yielded lower turnout as of 1:20p.m.

"In 2002, we already got 83 voters as of 10:30a.m.," he said.

Rizza Mantalaba, BET chair of 1269-A, where 101 of 188 had voted said some precincts have more voters because they belong to communities with close relations.

"It showed they are supporting specific candidates, that's why they come here in groups," she said.

Lucia Rodriguez, 48, a resident of Matina Aplaya noticed the fewer voters. "I came after lunch because I expected there were more voters earlier. Rodriguez was the 91st voter of precint 1277 A and 1280 A's  235 voters as of 1:30p.m.

Burgos said for her it is still important for people to vote for local officials in the barangay.

"Inday Pulido", 42 said participating in the barangay elections is a proactive way to influence change in government. "It starts from the smallest unit. We should not give up on our government," she said.  

Bernard Rosales, 16, told reporters he only voted in the SK elections because he had friends and classmates who ran.

He couldn't explain the role of the SK in the community. "All I know is that they help in organizing sports activities," he said.

Police Chief Superintendent Andres Caro II told reporters at the Kapihan sa SM City earlier in the day that elections were generally peaceful in Southeastern Mindanao.

Only one election-related violence in Tagum City, Davao del Norte was reported, Caro said, where a candidate for chair of Barangay Bingcungan was fired upon by a relative. The victim is safe but sustained minor wounds. The suspect is reportedly still at large. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)