Election fever intensifies in Lanao del Sur;  vote-buying, Maute group being monitored

MARAWI CITY  (MindaNews / 11 Sept) –   Election fever here has intensified with only 19 days left until October 1, the first day of the filing of certificates of candidacy for the May 2022 polls.

Huge tarpaulins of presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, have mushroomed in every street leading to the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol compound here with the message, “Sara Tano” (we are with Sara).

Not to be outdone, small tarps of her presumed political rival, Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno, also dotted the landscape here — some mischievously placed beside Sara’s tarps.

Election 2022 is still eight months away but in Marawi City, supporters of Mayors Sara Duterte of Davao City and Ishko Moreno of Manila have put up tarpaulins in support of their bids for a national post. The tarpaulins can be seen in various parts of the city in this photo taken on September 3, 2021. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

While political tarps among local candidates have yet to appear on the streets, rumors are circulating of local politicians preparing their war chests for the local elections to buy votes, commit fraud and violence.

“The going rate right now is Php 15,000 to PhP 20,000 for every voter in small municipalities with fewer voting population,” Drieza Liningding, head of the Marawi Consensus Group, said.

Liningding said the war chest of local politicians could run to P1 billion if you run for governor of the province. The budget would be smaller in elective posts for municipalities, he said.

He said with COVID-19 restrictions limiting face-to-face campaigning, local politicians would resort to vote buying in the 2022 polls.

The Commission on Elections considers Lanao del Sur which has 556,791 registered voters as of 2019, “an election hot spot” in previous elections.

Confict Alert, an international conflict monitoring NGO, said its 2019 report that vote buying always fueled election violence.

In the 2019 senatorial and local elections,  Conflict Alert reported vote buying ranging from 300 to 3,000 pesos in Marawi City and different municipalities in Lanao del Sur.

Aside from vote buying, the remnants of Dawlah Islamiyah Maute group could pose a major threat in the 2022 elections in the province.

Brig. Gen. Jose Marie Cuerpo, commanding general of the Army 103rd Infantry Brigade said they received reports that the Maute group would sell their services to politicians in the coming elections.

“This is a strong possibility since the Maute group no longer has the international support that had given them firearms and money,” Cuerpo said.

“Supporting local politicians in exchange for money and guns is the next step for them,” he added.

Cuerpo said the Maute group had previous experience of supporting local politicians before they attacked Marawi in 2017.

The remnants of the Dawlah Islamiyah Maute group number around 20 to 30 fighters and are being led by Faharudin Hadji Satar alias Abu Zacaria.

Cuerpo said the militants operate across the mountain ranges of Pualas town in Lanao del Sur to Tangcal town in Lanao del Sur.

He said the militants would pose a major threat to the coming elections.  (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)