Shariff Kabunsuan: this other “12-0” province has yet to start canvassing

The chair of the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBC) for Shariff Kabunsuan was initially held in concurrent position by Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol. Atty. Faisal Tanjili from Koronadal was reportedly appointed PBC chair as Bedol was busy with the Maguindanao canvass, but the appointee reportedly declined.

As of 11 a.m. Friday, May 18, the PBC had yet to convene.

Lawyers gathered outside the temporary office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) inside the Mindanao State University campus in Dalican, Datu Odin Sinsuat town, told MindaNews Wednesday afternoon that they were still awaiting the certificates of canvass from the towns but even if these would arrive, the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBC) could still not convene because no chair had been appointed.

The lawyers, however, said, they were informed Bedol may head the PBC in Shariff Kabunsuan after Maguindanao.

Bedol figured in the controversial “Hello Garci” wiretapped conversations as the subject of seven calls between then elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and unidentified male and female callers, one with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, one with the late Senator Robert Barbers and two with Bedol himself.

In most of the taped conversations, Bedol was mentioned as “tao natin” (our man) and the man who would “gagawa ng paraan” (find a way), referring to the number of votes involving presidential candidate Arroyo and senatorial bet Barbers.

In an interview with MindaNews in early July 2005, Bedol did not deny his closeness with Garcillano but denied ever having done any “paraan.”

As of Monday noon, the PBC of Maguindanao was waiting for the certificates of canvass from the five remaining towns but out of 73% of the votes canvassed from 17 of 22 towns,  it was 12-0 for the Senate, with Luis “Chavit” Singson topping the race.

Maguindanao’s “daughter province,” Shariff Kabunsuan, the country’s 80 province and Mindanao’s 27th, has 11 towns and 198,278 registered voters. Its mother province, Maguindanao has 212,795 registered voters from 22 towns. Together, these two provinces account for 411,073 registered voters, up by 76,786 from 2004 when the undivided Maguindanao had 334,287 registered voters.

Of the 11 towns in Shariff Kabunsuan, only one, Barira, held no election last Monday. The Commission on Elections declared a failure of election there following a stand-off, the ARMM police reported,  between armed supporters of Mayor Alex Tomawis and vice mayor Jun Macarimbang who is running against Tomawis. Barira has 11,919 registered voters.

Failure of election was also declared in six precincts in Kabuntalan town following reports of six ballot boxes snatched in Barangay Katidtuan and in Barangay Gambar, where two ballot boxes were snatched and “two of our PNP personnel had a firefight with the armed group who snatched the ballots.” Kabuntalan has 51 precincts spread across 17 barangays and has 10,225 registered voters.

The vote-richest town in the new province is Datu Odin Sinsuat with 39,700 registered voters followed by Sultan Kudarat with 39,326.

Datu Odin Sinsuat is the bailiwick of  OIC Shariff Kabunsuan governor Bimbo Sinsuat who was the vice governor of Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. until he was named OIC governor of the new province in late 2006.

Sultan Kudarat is the bailiwick of Sultan Kudarat mayor Tocao Mastura, Sinsuat’s closest rival in the gubernatorial polls.

Mastura had earlier suggested that the provincial canvassing be held in Cotabato City instead of the temporary provincial legislative hall in the MSU campus in Datu Odin Sinsuat town. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)