Electoral violence which resulted to the death of three persons, two of whom were suspected to be flying voters, marred today senatorial and local elections in the province.
Salic Ibrahim, executive director of the Maranao People’s Development Center said some 81,588 voters were not able to cast their votes in 11 towns in Lanao del Sur as of 5pm today.
The affected towns were Kapatagan, Pualas, Madalum, Masiu, Lumba bayabao, Sultan Dumalundong, Butig, Lumbayanague, Bayang, Tubaran and Lumbatan.
Lanao del Sur has 39 towns.
Elections were not also held in five barangays in Marantao town and two barangays in Marawi City.
Ibrahim said the Citizens Care monitoring center also reported that two suspected flying voters and another supporter of a local candidate were gunned down in two separate incidents in Marawi city.
“This is now the bloodiest election in our province recent electoral history,” he said.
Agakhan Sharief, a school owner who is running for a seat in Lanao del Sur’s provincial board, was not able to vote in his hometown of Masiu this morning.
Sharief, who won popular support when he adopted for his campaign the name of international terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, found that the incumbent mayor of Masiu had insisted in holding the elections in the municipal hall not at the designated public schools.
“This is good and bad. It is good because I can campaign again for more votes in my hometown. Bad because the voters will ask for more money in exchange for their votes,” he told Mindanews
A devout Muslim, Sharief considers vote-buying as “haram” (forbidden) and has taken great lengths to avoid this. This morning, he rode in another vehicle bound for Masiu, so he would not easily be recognized.
“I have avoided campaigning in my hometown because I know my town mates will ask favors and money from me,” Sharief said.
He lamented how dirty politics has ruined the religious side of the Maranaos. Sharief was Masiu’s former vice mayor and councilor before he decided to run for the higher political position.
Lacs Dalidig, the controversial National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) officer in Lanao del Sur, said vote buying is rampant in the province with politicians shelling out P500 to P5,000 for each voter.
He said local candidates suspected to have links with drug syndicates in Maguing town, buy votes as high as P8,000.
In another town, Dalidig said a local candidate paid his opponent P20 million to let him win.
“His opponent stopped campaigning. He left the town and went on vacation,” Dalidig said.
One of the foreign observers monitoring the conduct of elections in Lanao del Sur, got the surprise of her life when a man gave her P500 and a list of candidates that she would vote for.
“I was surprised because I never expected that vote-buying is that rampant here. Maybe he mistook me for a Filipino,” Mosarat Qadeem, a Pakistani, said.
Qadeem, a member of the Asian Nations for Free Elections (Anfrel) said she was saddened that the voters who sold their votes did not know it violated the teachings of the Qur’an.
“Voters education here is very important. They should see this act of giving money not as a gift but as a bribe,” she said. (Froilan O. Gallardo/MindaNews)