MARAWI CITY (MindaNews/10 July) — A multi-agency task force started a crackdown on vehicles ferrying “fictitious registrants” on Tuesday after Army soldiers intercepted 13 such vehicles in Saguiaran town in Lanao del Sur on the same day.
Col. Dario Bucawit, chief of the 64th Infantry Battalion said 13 vans and jeeps filled with suspected flying registrants came as far away as Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte, Manolo Fortich town in Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities.
The Commission on Elections has ordered a re-registration of voters in Lanao del Sur and the rest of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in an effort to weed out “hundreds of thousands” of fake voters.
Violence marred the second day of the registration in Lanao del Sur after an off-duty policeman shot and wounded three persons who had lined up to register in the town of Bayang.
The three wounded persons identified as Aldein Balt, Usman Alayudan and Usof Tattoyeman, were brought to Marawi City for treatment.
The policeman managed to flee after the shooting.
Col. Daniel Lucero, chief of the 103rd Infantry Brigade said troops were sent to the towns of Butig and Sultan Dumalondong where shooting incidents were reported yesterday.
Lucero said warring families in Butig town fired shots in the air causing disruption in the registration at the town hall.
In the nearby town of Sultan Dumalondong, Dinganun Barangay Chair Amerol Pokiya reported that 10 gunmen fired shots at the Dinganun Primary School where the registration was conducted.
Pokiya said the harassment continued for 30 minutes and only stopped after soldiers arrived in the village.
The series of shooting incidents and the unruly behavior of big crowds lining outside the registration centers prompted election officers to ask Army soldiers to help.
Soldiers were seen helping and even calling out the names of the registrants in the registration centers in Poona Bayabao, Masiu, Butig, Marantao and Sultan Dumalondong.
Lucero said the Comelec has deputized the 103rd Infantry Brigade to stop and intercept vans and passenger jeepneys ferrying suspected flying registrants into Lanao del Sur from outlying provinces.
He said personnel from the Land Transportation Office will assist Army soldiers in manning the checkpoint in Barangay Pawak, Saguiaran town, gateway to Marawi City and Lanao del Sur.
Soldiers have already intercepted 13 jeeps and vans at the checkpoint in Pawak on Tuesday prompting the Comelec to issue the deputation in order to deter the flying registrants.
“We will check their papers. If they do not have proper travel papers or driver’s license, we will impound the vehicles. Bahala na if the passengers will walk all the way to Marawi City,” Lucero said.
Bucawit, however, said they could not detain or apprehend passenger jeeps and vans with proper travel papers.
He said all of the 13 vehicles they earlier intercepted were released afterwards including their passengers.
“Their right to travel is guaranteed in our Constitution. We will be committing a human rights violation if we detain them,” he said.
Bukawit said they can only issue stern warning to the suspected flying registrants and hope they would not proceed with their plans.
“We are just conducting psywar. We hope they get scared,” he said.
Bukawit said many of the passengers told them they were traveling in large groups because they were attending a burial or wedding.
Trader Fatimah Pesique said she and her family of 20 people traveled from Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon to attend the second death anniversary of her father in Molondo town in Lanao del Sur.
She said she and her family had a store selling dry goods in Manolo Fortich and another store selling glassware in Marawi City.
“We are registered voters here in Molundo. We did not attempt to register in Manolo Fortich because the Comelec there is very strict,” she said when asked whether she was a registered voter in Manolo Fortich. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)