MANILA, Philippines - Despite minor incidents of election-related violence, the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections yesterday were “generally peaceful,” the military and police reported.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs chief Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said many of the problems experienced in the election were not security-related.
“The election was generally peaceful throughout the country. There were postponements in certain areas but these were due to non-security related reasons,” he said.
Voting was postponed or extended in many polling precincts because of delays in the arrival of election materials.
There were also reports of vote buying and election-related violence in several areas.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Raul Bacalzo has ordered all regional, provincial, and station commanders to investigate the incidents of election-related violence and arrest the perpetrators. “As of 3 p.m., the situation is generally peaceful,” he said.
“I have directed our field commanders to prioritize these cases but as a matter of protocol, we don’t give deadline to investigators.” PNP Director Benjamin Belarmino said the police will continue field monitoring because election-related violence is expected to rise during the counting of votes and proclamation of winners. “We consider 3 p.m. (after the voting process) crucial since losing candidates might resort to some efforts to disrupt the proclamation of the winning candidates. We will still be on guard,” he said.
Belarmino noted that during the election period of Sept. 25 until yesterday, 47 cases of election-related violence were reported but still have to be validated. This is lower compared to 101 incidents of electoral violence reported in the 2007 barangay and SK elections. Bacalzo said there was a total of six shooting and grenade explosion incidents in Mindanao yesterday. The barangay and SK election in most of Maguindanao’s politically-troubled towns was generally peaceful but many precincts failed to hold elections because of non-availability of voters’ lists and election materials.
But like in the past, election in the province was mired in violence. A candidate for barangay chairman in a secluded barangay in Parang was slightly wounded when suspected followers of a rival candidate opened fire on the house of his relatives.
A hand grenade also exploded in front of the Pagagawan Elementary School in Barangay Pagagawas, Datu Montawal town at around 1 p.m., but none were killed or injured in the incident. At around 8:30 a.m., the supporters of Mokamad Talipasan, a candidate for barangay chairman in barangay Sabaken, Northern Kabankalan were apprehended by the board of election inspectors after they threw two ballot boxes into the river, causing delay in the conduct of election in the area.
In the town of Barira, the military intercepted a convoy of vehicles led by a politician transferring ballot boxes to secluded barangays in the municipality.
Brig. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, assistant division commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry division, said compared to the last barangay elections, this year’s election in Maguindanao has been more peaceful. In Sulu, a rifle grenade exploded temporarily stopping the voting in the village of Maimbung.
Lt. Jinky Perez, spokeswoman of Western Mindanao Command said none were killed or hurt in the explosion. “Voting was temporarily halted but security has been put in place as election resumed,” she said. In Lapu-Lapu City, the vehicle of Angel Rodriguez, running for captain of barangay Punta Engaño, was fired upon by unknown men, believed to be supporters of a rival candidate.
In many polling precincts, voting was extended up to late afternoon yesterday until today because election materials were delivered late yesterday morning.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) earlier said the landfall of typhoon “Juan” last week would cause delays in the transport of voting materials.
In the province of Bulacan, voting started at around 10 a.m. in several precincts because the election materials had not yet arrived.
In other villages, the delay was worsened by the usual problem of missing names in the voters’ list, causing some voters to just go home.
Sabino Mejarito, provincial election supervisor, said many voters did not check their names on the voters’ list days ahead of the elections.
Voters in Hagonoy, on the other hand, said some candidates and their supporters violated election laws by distributing inside the polling venue sample ballots and small pieces of paper with a candidate’s name on them.
Provincial police director Superintendent Fernando Villanueva, however, said no violent incident in the province. Superintendent Baltazar Mamaril, chief of police of Malolos City, said their biggest concern is the counting of ballots, during which tension arises.
Central Luzon Police Director Chief Superintendent Alan la Madrid Purisima said the elections in the seven provinces of Central Luzon were more peaceful compared to past elections.
Voting was extended to 5 p.m. in Barangay Babuyan in Sa. Cruz, Zambales and San Jose City in Nueva Ecija because of the delay in arrival of election materials.
Elections were postponed in two barangays in Paniqui, Tarlac because the polling precincts were used as evacuation centers for people displaced by typhoon Juan.
Comelec assistant regional director Emmanuel Ignacio said elections in the two barangays will be conducted within 30 days.
In Gandara, Samar, police arrested the incumbent chairman of Barangay Diaz for alleged vote buying. Municipal election officer Rey Magbuntay said Rex Delector was arrested after he was caught giving money to a voter near his residence at around 9 a.m. Delector, now under the custody of the Gandara municipal police, was not allowed to give comment.
Under the law, vote buying is punishable with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years.
A certain Lito Velardo of Barangay Calicoran showed up at the police station yesterday and presented money worth P800 which he claimed came from a candidate running for barangay chairman. He said he was threatened by a rival candidate.
Liza and Rene, both from Barangay San Antonio also claimed to have received P2,500 from a candidate running for barangay chairman. Provincial board member Roger Casurao, a lawyer, said that based on his experience, vote buying is hard to prove and no one has been convicted of the offense.
The Comelec postponed elections in 10 towns in Samar including Almagro, Tagapul-an, Sto. Niño, Daram, Zumaraga, San Jose de Buan, as well as in the municipalities of San Antonio, San Vicente, Capul, Beri, and Silvino Lobos.
Election in most barngays in Samar, however, was peaceful, according to PNP regional director Chief Superintendent Arnold Revilla.
Alexis Romero, Philippine Star