MARAWI CITY (MindaNews/28 October) — Elections in 87 villages in five municipalities in Lanao del Sur have been postponed after the ballots failed to arrive on time after the local election officers and treasurers went missing on election day.
Atty. Ray Sumalipao, regional director of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said they will sue the election officers of the towns of Masiu, Tugaya, Marantao, Madalum and Bubong for abandonment of posts.
At least a thousand police officers from Region 10 and 11 have been deployed in Lanao del Sur to perform special election duties like replacing teachers who refused to serve as Board of Election Tellers for security reasons.
The barangay elections in the province were also marred by fistfights between political supporters and sporadic shooting incidents intended to scare away voters and teachers.
Col. Glen Macasero, commanding officer of the 103rd Infantry Brigade said rival political supporters bashed the head of a certain Al-al Alimodin during a fistfight at the Central School in Barangay Poblacion in Madalum town Monday morning.
In Bayang town, Macasero said a certain Basmala Radiamoda allegedly torched a small classroom in Barangay Bubong Raya at about 4:30am, hours before the voting started Monday.
Sumalipao said voting in all of the 87 barangays will resume Tuesday morning.
“Only the Comelec commissioners sitting en banc can declare a failure of election,” Sumalipao said citing a Comelec guideline that voting may resume the next day if no election was held for non-delivery or delay in the arrival of ballots and election paraphernalia.
He said that in tomorrow’s (Tuesday) polls in the affected barangays, election tellers will call the name of voters only once. He said if the voter cannot respond to the call, he or she will forfeit his or her right to vote.
The official said the delay or non-arrival of ballots and election paraphernalia was caused by the disappearance of election officers and town treasurers who were supposed to accompany them to the polling precincts.
He cited the case of the election officer from Masiu whom he called several times Monday morning.
“He did not answer any of my calls. By afternoon, his phone was dead. It was a clear case of abandonment,” he said.
The election monitoring center at Kampo Ranao, Marawi City, headquarters of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, was swamped with reports that no elections were held in some barangays or that the elections were marred by fighting between political supporters.
In Tugaya, policemen had to fire warning shots to stop unruly supporters who were fighting outside the classroom in Sugod Elementary School.
Female police officers replaced the teachers in some of the voting centers in Amai Pakpak Elementary school in Marawi City.
Fistfights between rival supporters were rampant in the towns of Ditsi-Ramain, Buadi Puso, Saguiaran and Pualas, according to the military.
Despite this scenario, Sumalipao said the barangay elections in Lanao del Sur was a success.
“Out of 1,027 barangays in the province, only 87 barangays have their elections postponed tomorrow,” he said. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)