Electionsin Southeastern Mindanao: “disorderly at precinct level”

Melcar Unso, Comelec spokesperson for Southeastern Mindanao, admitted people were confused with lapses in the posting of computerized voters' lists and delayed shipment of election forms from the Comelec central office.

Unso told MindaNews Monday night that the process was fraught with lapses "but there is nothing that we cannot overcome." It boils down to problems with voters' registration, the preparation of voters' list, and the distribution of voters into precincts, he said. 

Unso said one concern was communicating to the voters and deputized election personnel instructions on the conduct of orderly, peaceful, and honest elections.

“Yes there were a lot of lapses. We tried our best but it is not enough," he said.

He quoted media-shy Comelec regional director Remlane Tambuang as saying "if you will focus on small problems, there will be too many that will surface, you might lose sight of the goal."

Unso said, however, that the lapses form only a small part of the over-all picture of the elections.

"Was there any failure of elections declared? Was there a precinct that did not open?” he asked.

Southeastern Mindanao comprises the three Davao provinces and Compostela Valley and the cities of Davao, Digos, Panabao, Samal and Tagum. The region has 2.2 million registered voters, 750,000 of which are from Davao City 

The Davao City media reported delayed arrival and incomplete election materials in various precincts. In Ubalde Elementary School here, polls had started when  the Board of Elections Inspectors announced they lacked official ballots.

Unso spoke on radio at around 10 a.m. saying personnel from Comelec Manila who brought the materials among others had already boarded a plane bound for Davao City 

BEI members assigned to remote areas of Marilog district in Davao City complained that they were only airlifted to their assignment by noon, around five hours after voting started.

Voters in Marilog Elementary School complained of not finding their names in any of the precincts.

Fascual Atos, 58, took almost two hours searching for his name and that of his family. He later said he was able to find his name in the master list of voters, but not in the Computerized Voters' List posted outside every precinct.

Carlito Insing, 49, however, was not as lucky. He gave up searching for his name and three others in the family and resolved not to vote anymore.

Unso said the confusion could have been avoided if the voters checked days before election day which precincts their names were posted. Poll watchers from political parties, said however, that the most of the list were posted only on election day even if Comelec announced they posted it in the principal's office of the schools.

Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos, speaking on behalf  of Commissioner-in charge Romeo Brawner in a press conference in Manila Monday, announced an estimated 80 percent voter turnout for the region.

Rodolfo Rasul, Interior and Local Government regional director, said, however, that he observed the turnout this year to be lower than in 2004. He told reporters in a press conference an hour before the closing of voting that turnout could be at most 70 percent only.

Unso said the situation calls for a timely "general registration" of voters to overhaul the records, which is required every 10 years. The last general registration was in 1997. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)