NorthCot villagers seek transfer of venue of Monday's polls due to intense political rivalries

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/24 Oct) – A village chair and residents of a Moro-dominated village in President Roxas town in North Cotabato province have sought transfer of the venue of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on Monday for fear that another armed fighting might erupt due to intense political rivalries.

Magaluna Ampatuan, chairman of Barangay Salat in President Roxas, said he has already submitted last week his request for transfer of venue at the office of municipal election registrar Joel Celis.

The request bore the signatures of some of the villagers, including tribal datus, he said,

Barangay Salat is site of armed fighting between elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The fighting is caused by land conflict and intense political rivalry, according to Chief Insp. Benjamin Rioflorido, chief of the President Roxas police.

Reports said that most of the candidates running in the barangay have backings from the rebel groups.

On Friday, one of the councilors of Barangay Salat who is running as village chair identified as Abdila Macaalay was wounded when three armed men strafed his house. The attack killed his 19-year-old niece identified as Baidido Macaalay.

Abdila Macaalay is the nephew of MILF Commander Daud Macaalay who is at odds with Magaluna Ampatuan, an official of the MNLF.

Abdila Macaalay’s strongest opponent in the chairmanship post is Ampatuan’s cousin, Abdula “Apuk” Ampatuan.

But Ampatuan, when asked, said he is not supporting his relative’s candidacy.

“I am already on my way out. This is already my last term but I want the elections on Monday to be held somewhere, in a peaceful area, so that my constituents would be able to cast their votes without fear,” Ampatuan said in the dialect.

Celis, in a radio interview, said the Comelec cannot grant Ampatuan’s request.

“It would be illegal to transfer the venue. What we would do is to ask the Army in North Cotabato to deploy additional troops in the area so that elections would push through,” he explained.

A company of soldiers from the 57th Infantry Battalion led by 2nd Lt. Nasrullah Sema will be deployed in the area, according to Celis.

He was told that since Friday after the attack on Macaalay no classes have been held at the Salat Elementary School, site of the barangay and SK polls.

“Despite what happened, the elections will push through as scheduled,” said Celis. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)