'Warlordism' typifies ARMM polls, says poll monitor

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/18 May) – Despite speed in counting and tabulation of election results, still, the elections on May 10 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were characterized by “warlordism,” says a poll monitor in the region.

“Warlordism,” as defined, is the use of power, both military and civil control, over an area where people are loyal to the “warlords” than to the central authority.

Salic Ibrahim, chair of the Citizens’ Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms (Citizens CARE), an accredited citizens’ arm of the Commission on Elections, said that automating the elections has brought significant improvement in counting the votes.

“It, however, did not break the established system of ‘warlordism’ and ‘command votes,’ where political leaders ‘dictated’ on the peoples’ choices, thus disregarding their right of suffrage,” said Ibrahim.

Ibrahim, however, did not identify in which areas in the ARMM these were happening.

The group fielded 6,750 volunteers on election day to monitor the 3,388 clustered precincts in the ARMM. Volunteers monitored electoral irregularities before and during the elections.

In Tawi-tawi province, for example, poll volunteers reported the rampant vote buying where they saw candidates soliciting votes in exchange of money.

In Kapatagan, a hinterland town in Lanao Del Sur, Citizens CARE volunteers witnessed how the board of election inspectors (BEIs) and “flying” voters filled out several ballots and fed them into the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

The secrecy of the ballot was also disregarded in most towns in Lanao del Sur since many of the clustered precincts lacked ballot secrecy folders during the elections.

“The election was not actually secret voting but an open one, since there were no ballot secrecy folders around,” said the group in its press statement.

Seven of the 39 towns in Lanao del Sur had failure of elections since many of the BEIs failed to show up on election day due to intimidations by local candidates, Citizens CARE reports added.

There was also delay in the transmission of canvassed votes from different municipalities in the ARMM due to poor signal and power outages.

Some clustered precincts in eight towns in Lanao del Sur were not able to use the PCOS machines after they experienced problems during the testing and sealing of the equipment on May 8.

A PCOS machine in a clustered precinct in Ditsaan-Ramain town, also in Lanao del Sur, was allegedly burned by still unidentified suspects.

Although the voting in Maguindanao was generally peaceful, election-related violent incidents on May 10 were monitored in the towns of Northern Kabuntalan, Datu Salibo, Datu Unsay, Paglat, and General SK Pendatun.

At least two deaths were recorded in Barangay Kapimpilan in Northern Kabuntalan after a firefight ensued between two warring parties.

In Barangay Mangal in Sumisip town in Basilan, members of a private army forcibly snatched the election materials, including the official ballots, from the BEIs.

In Barira town in Maguindanao, a group of armed men connected to a politician destroyed the PCOS machine intended to a clustered precinct.

The Citizens CARE, as an election monitoring in the ARMM founded in 2005, will continue to observe the conduct of the elections in the region.

To strengthen its task, the group has partnered with 36 non-government organizations (NGOs), civil society groups, academe, and other peoples’ organizations and organized the Regional Coordinating Council. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)