TUBOD, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews)– At least 1,000 church-based volunteers have been fielded by the provincial Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in the coastal municipalities of Lanao del Norte to observe and document precinct-based cases in the first-ever conduct of automated national polls.
Fr. Rey Pati-an, head of the provincial Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting in Lanao del Norte, said that these trained volunteers will be roaming around precincts in coastal communities only as they had difficulties to organize persons who can be fielded in hinterland communities.
Pati-an related that so far there are no incidents reported from municipal-based councils that can be considered life-threatening except for unverified reports about flying voters brought to the hinterlands that were barred by authorities and the delay of the distribution of PCOS flash cards.
“If the poll will prove that these gadgets will malfunction, the watchers are encouraged to report cases to board of election inspectors for expedient action,” he said.
Acknowledging limitations, “volunteers are vulnerable to threats and intimidations if they are assigned in areas where they have no particular knowledge of the terrain and if they aren’t equipped to undergo electoral challenges in high-risk situation,” he said.
Besides, I am not sure if the total gun ban policy is fully enforced specially in remote barangays,” he commented.
The Dimaporo family supported Gibo Teodoro but not its vice presidential candidate Edu Manzano. Reelectionist gubernatorial candidate Khalid Dimaporo and his mother Imelda who is running for Lanao del Norte’s first district are openly supporting Loren Legarda of Nacionalista Party (NP). He said voters in the province vote for candidates from different parties.
Pati-an said the provincial PPCRV has divided the province into three centers: Linamon, Tubod and Maranding centers.
He also bared that there is growing tension between congressional candidates in the first district of Lanao del Norte because there were already supporters who reported that “they were threatened to be de-listed as Philhealth card beneficiaries if they will expose themselves in public rallies with other candidates.”
He was also concerned about the sudden shuffling of municipal Comelec officers this week.
He also confirmed that Comelec seemed to have neglected to check candidates of the province who made posters beyond allowable sizes such as those posted with sizes twice that of the whole plywood.
Janina Bernardo of the Civil Society Organization- Forum for Peace (CSOFP) based in Iligan, said there were candidates who gave P100 to P200 per voters.
“The giving of goods and gifts this time are considered part of vote buying,” Pati-an said.
Inside the church of Tubod town, Pati-an’s co-priest last night reminded parishioners not to sell their votes “as it will just further our poverty.”
The priest called on them to vote with integrity and not to be deceived by the interests of the politicians. He also asked them to maintain vigilance and take part for a peaceful election as political violence hits up.
In a related statement, Amnesty International (AI) said private armies employed by politicians “that have risen from 68 in December to 117 in February” are causes of election-related violence.
AI explained that “political killings surged as means of eliminating electoral rivals. Other acts of violence, including grenade attacks, have also been used to intimidate political supporters.”
AI claimed to have documented nine cases of candidates or campaign managers who were victims of political killings. In Mindanao, AI documented victims as Kagi Ketong, campaign manager for the mayoral and vice-mayoral candidates Montasir and Abdulwahab Saban, killed in a grenade attack during a political rally in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao (15 April); and Edwin Segue, village councilor for San Antonio village and radio reporter, shot dead by motorcycle gunmen in Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental (14 April); and McArthur “Tol” Cortez, candidate for councilor in Sarangani town, Davao del Sur, killed in Digos City on April 12. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)