In Lutayan, where are the Namfrel volunteers?

Governor Pax Mangudadatu, who hails from this town of 26,291 voters, is running for the first district seat in Congress. His son, Suharto, is running for the gubernatorial seat he will vacate noon of June 30 while his daughter, Ruth Sakalura, is running for mayor. The incumbent mayor is Ruth’s husband, Raden. Ruht’s father, Pax and brother Suharto also served as Lutayan mayor before.

Ruth and her entire slate in Kampi are running unopposed.

The elder Mangudadatu, fresh from a tennis game, voted around 8:30 a.m. flanked by security escorts, while the younger Mangudadatu voted about an hour later, also with heavy security escorts.

They voted at the Tamnag Elemtary School here, where voters’ turnout in some precincts reached 60% just two hours after the precincts opened.

BEI members in at least two precincts said Namfrel representatives were not around to monitor the conduct of elections.

MindaNews tried but failed to look for Namfrel volunteers even within the  Church compound here, which was closed.

Michael Abbas, Commission on Elections director for Southwestern Mindanao, said the “presence of Namfrel volunteers in the polling precincts is not necessary so long as the poll watchers of rival politicians are around to monitor the conduct of elections. The function of Namfrel is for the quick count,” he said in a telephone interview.

The elder Mangudadatu expressed confidence that the administration-backed Team Unity senatorial candidates would emerge victorious here. The Mangudadatus are close allies of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Mangudadatu said he is confident that in the four other towns under their influence – Lambayong, Columbio, President Quirino and Esperanza — TU candidates will also get majority of the votes.

“These towns are under our influence,” he told reporters. He also acknowledged that in the other towns in the province — Bagumbayan, Isulan and Tacurong  — are not under our control.”

Meanwhile, due to lack of manpower, the Comelec here has been beefed up by employees from the municipal government.

Several voters also complained of having a hard time finding their names in the precincts.

Sample ballots were also seen distributed at the gates of the polling precincts.

In the 2004 elections, voters’ turnout in this municipality was “unusually high,” pegged at 98%, overwhelmingly in favor of the Mangudadatus.

Estimates then placed the usual voter’s turnout usually within 45 to 50 percent. Official count showed that 25,631 voters exercised their right of the total 26,198. (MindaNews)