“In 28 percent of all the barangays in the province, the candidates for barangay chair are running unopposed,” a police report to the Comelec here said.
But Atty. Renault Macarambon, who claimed he was sent by Comelec Acting Chair Resurreccion Borra to assist Acting Provincial Election Supervisor, Atty. Carlito Ravelo in supervising the elections in this province, however, said: “We have yet to receive their written withdrawal (from the electoral race).”
“That is only according to the police reports, but we are yet to verify that,” Macarambon said, as he stressed that even if there are candidates running unopposed, “the voting will still go on as scheduled because the votes of the unopposed candidates need to be counted along with those running for barangay councilors.”
Macarambon, in an interview at the Ayala Resort where the Comelec holds office here “for security considerations,” admitted hearing reports of mayors who were working to convince some aspirants for barangay chair to “give way to a common candidate” so that the post of village chief would no longer be contested.
But Atty. Abdulaziz Mamutoc, a known election lawyer here, has different estimate of barangays where “LGU or datu-nominated candidates are running unopposed.” He puts the estimate at 80 percent.
Mamutoc said that in some barangays, “the political clans decided and agreed to rotate the chairmanship of the barangays among themselves. In other areas, they agreed to divide the term of office of the supposed contending parties among themselves.”
The lawyer, whose wife was among those who filed her candidacy in their barangay but later withdrew “to avoid trouble,” said he is aware that the agreed sharing of term of office is not legal. He explained that the agreement stipulates that the names of barangay chairs who would serve the first half of the term “need not be changed even if the other party to the agreement would be the one running the affairs of the barangay and managing the Internal Revenue Allotment.”
Salic Ibrahim, chair of Citizen Care in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (C-Care), a poll watch dog, and Diocesan priest Teresito Suganob, chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, also confirmed having received reports “that only very few barangays would essentially be having elections.”
Lanao del Sur has been known for “all sorts of irregularities during the conduct of elections.”
Ibrahim, who is also provincial coordinator of the Bantay Ceasefire, which is monitoring “election-related violence that may affect the ceasefire agreement” between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said his group “will never stop trying to make election here peaceful and orderly.”
Suganob said that “it appears that the Maranaos here are being labelled as cheats. But to them, this (election) is just a kind of activity that was taught to them by the national officials. Elections, for them, is being called by a local chief executive for a sumptous meal. Before they go home, they are either given money, meat, rice, or all of the three.
The priest, who spent most of his 20 years of priesthood here, said that the “activity” has persisted because “the people know that the national officials, who taught them what election is also pay millions to buy votes here.”
“Besides, that has been proven here already. If you give money, you will surely win,” he said in emphasizing that most of the people here could not even appreciate election as an essential requirement of democracy.
In the towns of Kalanugas and Malabang, for instance, Macarambon received reports that only two and four barangays, respectively, would be contested by more than one candidates for the barangay chairmanship. (MindaNews)