Lawyer Lilian Radam, acting South Cotabato election supervisor, said she has given the go signal to the board of election inspectors (BEIs) of the province's biggest barangay to proceed with the canvassing of votes at the polling precincts in the area.
In past elections, the BEIs had to travel at least three to four hours all the way to the municipal gym in Poblacion, Lake Sebu, the official canvassing area for ballots coming from remote villages like Ned.
Radam's directive was initially opposed by local police officials reportedly due to the presence of armed groups who are allegedly out to spoil the canvassing of votes in the village.
But Radam said she maintained her position to hold the counting at the precinct level since the village is no longer isolated unlike before.
She pointed out that barangay Ned is already accessible due to the completion of the main road project leading to the village and the availability of regular transportation to and from the area.
Barangay Ned, which was established in 1962 as a settlement area of T'boli town and reservation for the cTasaday tribe, is the largest village in South Cotabato in terms of land area and voting population with around 5,000 scattered in its 30 sitios.
The mountain village, which is part of the Roxas Mountain Range, encompasses an area of over 41,000 hectares composed of the Ned Settlement Area (22,000 hectares) and the Tasaday Reservation (19,000 hectares).
The Tasaday Reservation, a forest reserve declared by then President Ferdinand Marcos, was named after a supposed stone-age tribe in the area. The tribe did not belong to that era. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)