Fill in the blanks for Senate?

Sinab Ibrahim, district supervisor of the Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms (Citizens Care), said results from 34 COVs they received from Marawi City as of 2 p.m. today showed many Maranaos did not bother at all to write down the names of the senatorial candidates of their choice.

“Many of the COVs have blanks in the senatorial race meaning the voters did not choose any senatorial candidate,” she said.

Ibrahim cited the COV from Precinct 32-A in Barangay Buadi Irowa where senatorial candidates average 12 to 60 votes each. In the congressional race, there was a high voter turnout with each of the two local candidates garnering 60 and 140 votes each.

“This means that many of the ballots have blank spaces in the senatorial line-up,” she said.

Ibrahim said Lanao del Sur residents are more interested in local politics because of the intense rivalry of the clans.

But  Ibrahim warned of the danger that the 2004 controversial dagdag-bawas may happen again because of these ballots with unfilled senatorial line-up.

“Anybody can fill those blanks. Dagdag-bawas will happen again,” Ibrahim said.

She said the cheating can be done at night since Marawi City including the two canvassing centers at the Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol Gym and the People’s Park are experiencing frequent brownouts.

Indonesian foreign observer Marini Binti Mohammad Daud said the lack of interest among voters can be traced with the ballot.

“There are so many positions to fill up. It is very tiring to fill up all of the positions in the ballot,” she said.

Canvassing of the ballots for Marawi City at the People’s Park was finished at 11:30 a.m. this morning. The canvassing for the province of Lanao del Sur was, however, slow. Only four towns had been canvassed as of 1 p.m. today.

Many of the teachers had to write the results on the floor because there were no tables and chairs for them.

The Philippine National Police Regional Mobile Group from Cotabato City imposed strict measures disallowing anyone including journalists to enter the canvassing area.

Still, Citizens care and other poll watchdogs are suspicious that dagdag-bawas may occur again in this election.

Ibrahim said many of the Board of Canvassers refused to give them the sixth copy of the COV.

“This happened in the 2004 Presidential Elections. We are afraid that they are planning dagdag-bawas again,” she said.

Hajji Abdullah Dalidig, the National Movement for Clean and Free Elections (Namfrel) officer in Lanao del Sur said the Board of Election Inspectors has provided them only 30 election returns from 30 precincts.

He said the Comelec should have provided Namfrel the election returns of the 342 precincts by now.

“There is really a danger of dagdag-bawas especially if the Comelec fails to turn over the election returns two days from now,” Dalidig said.

He said it will take only two days for unscrupulous Comelec officials to pad the votes of their favored candidates.

Dalidig was the whistle blower who exposed the dagdag-bawas operations in Lanao del Sur in the 2004 Presidential Elections.

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