Suspicions that Lanao Sur votes will be manipulated hound special polls

Senator Rodolfo Biazon said the Palace sent one of its political operators, former Philippine National Police Chief Arturo Lumibao, to Marawi City. He said Lumibao left this morning after he saw him at the Ayala Resort in Mindanao State University.

Biazon came here together with the lawyers group Lente, an election watchdog organized by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

Aside from Lumibao, MindaNews also saw one of the Mindanao operators identified with former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano in Iligan City last Saturday night.

The operator, who was implicated with Garcillano during the 2005 congressional hearings on the “Hello, Garci” controversy, also left when he saw MindaNews at the hotel where he was staying.

Lacs Dalidig, chief of the Lanao del Sur National Movement for Free Elections, said he received reports that deals to make the Team Unity win big in the province were forged in the coffee shops of one of the biggest shopping malls in Cagayan de Oro City this week.

“Dadayain rin nila itong election (They will also cheat in this election),” Dalidig said.

Salic Ibrahim, provincial coordinator of the Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms, raised a howl after local election officials prevented their volunteers from getting inside the canvassing centers at the Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol Gym, Marawi People’s Park, Marawi National High School and Amai Pakpak Elementary School.

He said they received reports that the Commission on Elections was limiting the number of volunteers who could enter the canvassing center. “This is already an indicator of irregularity,” Biazon said.

The senator said he also raised a complaint to the Comelec after local election officials gave copies of the election returns to the Liberal Party faction led by outgoing Manila Mayor Lito Atienza.

“This is another irregularity. Our party has told the Comelec that the copies in Lanao del Sur be given to the party list group Suara (Bangsamoro,” he said. Interviewed on ANC Dateline Philippines, Biazon said “there is no such thing as LP-Atienza wing.”

Biazon said the widespread electoral cheating is unfair to the people of Lanao del Sur because it taints the image of the province.

“Cheating is rampant here because the people from Malacañang allowed this to happen,” he said.

Aside from reports of alleged irregularities, gunfire also greeted Biazon and Lente members when they went to monitor the canvassing at the Marawi People’s Park this morning.

The one-minute gunfire, coming from soldiers who tried to control unruly poll watchers, ruffled Biazon who was then answering questions from the lawyers.

The senator and the lawyers took cover behind a concrete building and waited for the firing to stop. Scores of scared poll watchers also went with them.

However, Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the conduct of special elections in 10 of the 13 towns of Lanao del Sur was “generally peaceful.”

He said a special election was held in Butig this morning with policemen assigned to take over the duties of the municipal board of election inspectors.

Butig election inspectors did not show up at the polling precincts last Saturday, he added. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)