Poll tension in future Bangsamoro
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) – Respect peace covenants.
This was the call made on candidates by stakeholders in the future Bangsamoro on Monday, October 28, as delayed precinct openings and instances of poll-related violence were reported hours before and during the elections.
As of posting, the military has reported at least 12 incidents of violence in 4 ARMM provinces. They are verifying if two more incidents are poll-related.
"The plea is to have fair elections," Samira Gutoc of Bantay Eleksyon told Rappler, even as they urged citizens to be more vigilant.
"Today's barangay elections is the last before the so-called new Bangsamoro is formed in 2015. After covenants with civil society, army, PNP, and MILF in an unprecedented effort to help avoid barangay violence in ARMM, we hope the fruits of labor in voters education will bear fruit," Bantay Eleksyon said in a statement.
The Lanao del Sur-based group particularly expressed concern over the murder of a female candidate for barangay captain in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur.
The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is finalizing a peace deal that will usher in the creation of a new Bangsamoro entity that will replace and expand the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The goal is to create the Bangsamoro by 2015 so the new entity can elect their new leaders in the 2016 presidential and local polls.
Bantay Eleksyon reported delays in the opening of voting precincts and the arrival of election paraphernalia and a 3 am "strafing incident" in Barangay Sugod in Madalum town, near the capital Marawi City.
Citing initial reports, Captain Jefferson Somera of the Army's 1st Infantry Division said it was not a strafing incident but a single gunshot fired by still unidentified person. Somera said they are waiting for the official report.
The military reported various incidents across ARMM and other areas that will be included in the new Bangsamoro entity.
The police has acknowledged a general spike in poll-related violence. But the worst is not over. The most critical period of the polls is between the closing at 3 pm and the declaration of winners, usually expected within two hours after that.
Basilan: Barangay kagawad killed
In Basilan, a barangay official was fatally shot by an unidentified suspect. Kagawad Hj Faizal Mohammad, 59, of barangay Bohe Lebbung, Tipo-Tipo town, was on his way to cast his vote when an unknown suspect stopped him, engaged him in a heated argument, and later shot him.
An improvised explosive device was recovered while voting was ongoing at the Isabela City Pilot School. The IED was found around 230 p.m. inside a bag placed at the back of the school building. The local police succeeded in disarming the IED.
An unidentified voter snatched at 12:50 p.m. the ballot box of Precinct 51A and 51B in barangay Bohesuyak of the town of Ungkaya Pukan. The voter fled towards barangay Materling, according to a police situation report.
A separate incident in Lamitan City also prompted a teacher serving as chairperson of the Board of Election Tellers (BET) to "withdraw" from the polling center.
"At about 7:15 am of October 28, 2013, a commotion incident transpired at Barangay Bulanting Hall Polling Center, Sitio Lebe, Bulanting, Lamitan City, Basilan. Mrs Nasiha A. Jamiri – BET chairman of said polling place – decided to withdraw and proceeded to Lamitan City Hall," reads the military situation report.
The military also reported two other incidents in Basilan – harassment in Barangay Ibbu in Lamitan City and indiscriminate firing in Barangay Tong-umus in the town of Tabuan-Lasa. The military is still investigating if they are election-related.
North Cotabato: Delayed voting, encounters
The military received various reports in North Cotabato, where a number of towns will be joining the Bangsamoro.
Election violence were perpetrated by losing candidates hoping that the Commission on Elections will declare failure of election, according to 6th Infantry Division (6th ID) spokesman Col Dickson Hermoso.
Hermoso acknowledged that their job to secure the polls is not over. "The 6th ID and PNP will be more vigilant especially in the transport of ballot boxes to canvassing areas," he said.
A cop was killed in a shooting incident in Kabacan town, North Cotabato. The incident that killed PO3 Sony Uro happened in front of a police outpost. He suffered a gunshot wound on his head which resulted in his death.
In the town of Pikit, at least 14 barangays failed to open the polling precincts on time, according to a midday situation report from Captain Antonio Bulao, Civil Miiltary Operations Officer of the Army's 602nd Brigade.
The 14 barangays are: Rajamuda, Talitay, Bagoinged, Buliok, Barungis, Balungis, Bualan, Gocotan, Balabak, Tinutulan, Balong, Macabual, Bulol, and Macabual.
The BETs of the 14 barangays were instructed to hold elections in their respective barangays but they (BETs) want to hold polls elsewhere.
BETs in 2 of the 14 barangays — Kabasalan and Tinutulan — eventually agreed to report to the designated voting areas. The 12 other barangays will hold elections on Wednesday, October 29, according to Hermoso.
Also in Pikit, the military reported a 6 am strafing incident in the vicinity of Barangay Macasendeg. A similar incident happened Sunday night. Initial reports show candidates are involved, supposedly to block voters from proceeding to voting centers.
In the nearby town of Carmen, at Sitio Kirumiay of Barangay Malapag, a firefight transpired around 9 am on Monday between the group of Commander Akas Kumawit and Commander Dimakukom of the MILF against the group of Commander Umpa Akmad of the Kapalawan Provincial Revolutionalry command.
"The military unit in the area sent a buffer force to prevent the escalation of the conflict while facilitating for the peaceful resolution of the conflict," said Bulao.
In Midsayap, voting was temporarily stopped at the Ulandang Elementary School after unidentified men fired at the voting center around 10 am on Monday. Bulao said the military has deployed a team to secure the school. Voting immediately resumed at 10:50 am, according to the military situation report.
In Maguindanao, the military reported "sporadic gunfires" at Sitio Lakpan, Barangay Cabayuan, of the town of Buldon early Monday morning. The Army's 6th Infantry Division spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso said assorted high-powered firearms were used, including an M203 grenade launcher.
"Accordingly, the armed men are planning to block the delivery of ballot boxes to Poblacion Buldon, Maguindanao," said Hermoso. There were no reported casualties. Combined forces of the military and police are conducting pursuit operations.
In the same Maguindanao town on Sunday, unidentified suspects burned 4 classrooms at the Central Dinganen Elementary School. The motive is believed to be election-related. The classrooms were to be used as voting centers.
Six barangays in Buldon town, Maguindanao will hold elections on Wednesday. Hermoso said election paraphernalia failed to reach the areas on time. – with reports from Richard Falcatan/Rappler.com