ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 10 May) – Some 400 ballots were wasted following the havoc caused by a former leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in a polling place in Basilan, according to poll officials.
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) reported that in the remote village of Bohelebung, armed men led by a former Abu Sayyaf leader Nurhassan Jamiri ordered poll officials to halt the voting.
When the poll officials refused to cooperate, the armed men snatched the ballots, damaging about 400 of them.
Rohaida Dia, acting election officer of Tipo-tipo, said elections in two barangays – Bohelebung and Limbo Upas – were delayed due to the presence Jamiri and armed men under his command. Jamiri was once a notorious ASG band leader who surrendered in 2018.
Dia said with the harassment by Jamiri’s group, voters of Barangay Limbo Upas trooped to the municipal hall, a few kilometers away, after they failed to cast their votes.
Limbo Upas Kagawad Hussin Ismalin shared over phone his experience that he was about to vote but he and other voters were told to leave. They instead went to the municipal hall and waited for further instructions until the conflict was cleared.
Jamiri and his men were heavily armed, causing the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) to appeal to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to declare the elections in the two barangays as a failure
Lawyer Vidzfar Julie, Basilan provincial election officer, said in a phone interview that 400 ballots were snatched by Jamiri from a teacher manning the booth in Bohelebung.
He said one of the armed men struck the hand of a member of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), and the ballots she was holding thus fell. Someone grabbed the ballots and ran outside the voting center, Julie said.
He said the ballots were thrown outside the precinct and were later drained with the rain.
The COMELEC official said that in Limbo Upas, armed men had ink bottles with them, which they used to deliberately pour on some of the ballots.
He said shots were fired in Bohelebung, resulting in two persons injured.
But the suspects reportedly fled the area empty handed, leaving their snatched ballots outside the precincts. The situation was under control by noon.
Julie said that balloting went on and it is up to the BEI to have the elections in the two barangays declared a failure. (Frencie Carreon / MindaNews)