COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/14 May) – The Regional Board of Canvassers (RBOC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) convened at 6:14 p.m. Monday but failed to initialize the Consolidated Canvassing System (CCS) that would receive the electronically-transmitted certificates of canvass from the five ARMM provinces because the third member failed to show up.
Ray Sumalipao, regional director of the Comission on Elections in the ARMM and chair of the three-member RBOC, convened the session at 6:14 a.m. with vice chair Ramy Guiling, the Regional State Prosecutor, but declared a 15-minute recess at 6:52 p.m. and later suspended the session until 10 a.m. Tuesday because the rules require that initializing must be done in the presence of all three members and ARMM Education Secretary Jamar Kulayan, the supposed member-secretary, was a no-show.
Kulayan was a no-show as well when the session resumed at 10:25 a.m. Tuesday, prompting the RBOC, with the consensus of the lawyers of the candidates, to pass a resolution asking the chair of the Commission on Elections to replace Kulayan and to resume session at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Sumalipao told MindaNews shortly before the board convened at the Regional Legislative Assembly building (RLA) inside the ARMM compound here on Monday that results from the Provincial Board of Canvassers of the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao were likely to come in “I believe in the afternoon (of Tuesday).”
ARMM, the only region in the country where voters had synchronized elections at the local, national and regional level, has 1,300,479 registered voters in 2,905 clustered precincts in 1,156 voting centers across 2,490 barangays.
This is the first ARMM election synchronized with the national elections since the regional government’s birth in 1990.
Voters in other towns nationwide had to shade 30 or 31 ovals on the left side of the candidates’ names for 12 senators, one party-list representative, one Congressional representative, one governor, one vice governor, four or five provincial board members, one mayor, one vice mayor and eight municipal board members, but ARMM voters had to shade five more for the regional governor, regional vice governor and three members of the RLA.
Elected as a team
Unlike other government units, the governor and vice governor in the ARMM are elected as a team.
Section 4 of Article VII of RA 9054 provides that a vote for a candidate for Regional Governor “shall be counted as a vote for his team mate for Regional Vice Governor” while a vote for a Regional Vice Governor “shall be counted as a vote for his teammate for Regional Governor.”
Immediately after the RBOC was convened, lawyers of the candidates entered their appearance. But of six candidates for ARMM Governor and eight candidates for Vice Governor, only the Liberal Party team of OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman and his running mate, former ARMM Local Governments Secretary Haroun Alrashid Lucman, gubernatorial bet Governor Pax Mangudadatu (Ind), a former governor of Sultan Kudarat province, and his running mate, former Lanao del Sur Governor Bashier Manalao (PDP) were represented by lawyers.
No lawyer entered his appearance for Nur Misuari, candidate for ARMM Governor. The founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front is the longest-staying governor in the 23-year old ARMM, having served from September 30, 1996 until he was arrested in late November 2001 off Sabah for alleged illegal entry.
Lawyer Algamar Latiph is representing the Liberal Party’s Hataman-Lucman team. Lawyer Pedro Ferrer is representing Mangudadatu and was later joined by lead counsel Manuelito Luna and Sonny Guro Sr., for Manalao.
As of 2:04 p.m. Tuesday, Hataman was leading the race at 194,198 votes against Mangudadatu’s 82,946 and Misuari’s 43,416, while in the vice gubernatorial race, Lucman garnered 208,325 votes against Manalao’s 23,265 and Sultan Bob Datimabang’s 20,874, according to unofficial election results sourced from the Comelec’s Transparency Server via the the Rappler mirror server.
The RBOC convened with only Sumalipao and RBOC Vice Chair Guiling. The Board managed to open the plastic box containing the CCS materials, checked the contents in the presence of the candidates’ lawyers but wasn’t able to proceed with the initializing on Monday night because Kulayan, had not arrived from Sulu .
At 6:52 p.m., Sumalipao declared a 15-minute recess but since Kulayan did not arrive, suspended the session until 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Immediately after the lawyers introduced themselves, Sumalipao proceeded with the task of opening the CCS box.
But it took the Board some time to break the metal seal of the plastic box containing the laptop, printer and other materials needed to receive transmissions from the PBOCs.
At 6:22 p.m., when attempts to break it by hand failed, someone said “we need pliers to break open” the seal. Sumalipao’s assistant Jamel Dilawangon left the session hall to look for pliers, returned to say he had asked someone to do so.
Another RBOC personnel produced a kitchen knife at 6:25 p.m. but the attempt was still a failure. A metal rod was tried but still with no success. A worried Dilawangon was leaving the session hall to follow-up on the person he asked to look for pliers. “We have pliers in our vehicle,” MindaNews offered. Dilawangon accepted.
By 6:33 p.m., the pliers arrived and two minutes later, the box was opened after what Sumalipao described to be “such an unfathomed difficulty.”
ARMM’s vote-richest province is Maguindanao at 439,455 followed by Lanao del Sur’s 350,268. Sulu has 249,289 registered voters, Basilan has 136,383 and Tawi-tawi has 125,084. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)